Sydney FC Head Coach Steve Corica paid tribute to match-winner Rhyan Grant after his relentless performance earned the Sky Blues a historic fifth Hyundai A-League Championship.
The Socceroos star showcased his desire and stamina to score a 100th-minute winning goal with his chest and sink first-time Grand Finalists, Melbourne City, in Sydney’s dramatic 1-0 extra time victory at Bankwest Stadium.
Grant’s determination to secure the result was unwavering as the Premiers shut down the competition’s second-best team and celebrated a successful Championship defence in front of a reduced capacity of 7,500 supporters in the Harbour City’s western suburbs.
Grant was awarded the 2020 Joe Marston Medal for his decisive performance at both ends of the pitch and his coach Corica hailed the 29-year-old Sky Blues stalwart’s eye-catching display.
“Congratulations to this man [Grant] – he’s like the Energizer bunny,” said Corica, who became the first coach to earn back-to-back Championship in his first two seasons in the dugout.
“You could seen when he was out a couple of game, we really missed him.
“He’s come back at the right time and he’s been sensational here. He’s the best right-back in the country.”
“You can see what [Grant] gives,” Corica added.
“He’s a great guy for one, he’s energetic. He leads by example by doing all of the running and the pressing and being aggressive, and that’s a big part of the game these days.
“He’s been here for 10 years now, and two goals in two Grand Finals is not bad!”
Grant’s winning goal, scored from ex-City midfielder Luke Brattan’s incisive pass, added to his 2016/17 Grand Final equaliser in Sydney’s 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory, before the Sky Blues went on beat Melbourne Victory 4-2 on penalties.
That win kick-started a golden era for the Sky Blues, the first of three Championship titles in the space of four years, but Grant admits a slice of fortune fell in his side’s favour this time out.
“It was nice, maybe a little bit lucky, but I thought I’d put the keeper on with the chest rather than the head and it worked – so happy days,” said Grant.
“We didn’t start great. We were a bit shaky, we couldn’t get the ball on the deck and play football and credit to City, they started really well.
“They came at us in the first half but, going into the break, we took that as a restart and that second half we were a little bit better – again, probably not at our best.
“That’s a Grand Final, it’s a bit end-to-end at times and a bit cagey I suppose. We just had to ride that out and then make sure when we got our chances we took them.
“Thankfully we got that goal and then held them out but City were really good, we just got a bit lucky I reckon.”