Hyundai A-League Grand Final 2009: Jai Ho, Melbourne
There is a famous British film out in theaters called "Slumdog Millionaire." Many of you probably are familiar with this movie.
If not, I'll provide it to you in a nutshell: it is the heartening tale of Jamal Malik, a man from Mumbai who, out of the depths of poverty, is able to use his experience from meeting the faces of adversity to win the game show of his life.
This year, "Slumdog Millionaire" scored a coup at the Kodak Theatre on Feb. 22, winning eight Academy Awards. One of those is for Best Original Song.
That song is "Jai Ho," penned by A.R. Rahman and Gulzan. "Jai Ho," in Hindi, means "Be Victorious."
On Feb. 28, at the Telstra Dome, the Melbourne Victory, the dominant force throughout the pre-season and regular season, had the persevering spirit typical of Malik.
Ernie Merrick's club overcame injuries, a red card, and solid defending from a spirited Adelaide United side to win 1-0 in the 2008-09 Hyundai A-League Grand Final.
Tom Pondeljak, acquired from the Central Coast Mariners, was the hero for the Victory. His goal in the 59th minute, a low shot from 20 yards out, eluded Eugene Galekovic (once the backup keeper to Michael Theoklitos, and who frustrated the Melbourne counterattacking scheme for the bulk of the match) and found the net.
For his effort, Pondeljak would receive the Joe Marston Medal, becoming the second Victory player (the first being Archie Thompson) to win it.
With the win, the Victory not only become the first team to win two A-League Championships, but also the first team to win the Australian Treble: the Preseason Cup, the Premiership Plate, and the Championship Ring, all in the same year.
The 1-0 scoreline, on paper, may look like a merciful change from the 6-0 onslaught two years ago.
But on the pitch, the emotions, the fouls and the officiating were anything BUT merciful.
Match official Matthew Breeze, who works as a local police officer, cuffed Cristiano of Adelaide in the 10th minute for an elbow which saw blood pour from Rodrigo Vargas's head.
Adelaide manager Aurelio Vidmar, in his striped red, white and black tie, could only watch helplessly as he walked to the showers. Robbie Slater of Fox Sports deemed the match "ruined" soon after.
Vargas had to spend the rest of the second half wearing a large bandage around his head before being treated to in the locker room at halftime.
In the 65th minute, the playing field became level when Victory's Danny Allsopp was entangled in a melee with a number of Adelaide players, and subsequently given his marching orders by Breeze.
And yellow cards were dished out left and right. Adelaide had four, while Melbourne had two.
Even the most unusual of substitutions came to fruition. Evan Berger, who substituted for Nick Ward in the 56th minute, was substituted by Jose Luis Lopez in the 89th minute for an ambitious airborne attempt to gain possession.
No doubt that one of the future stars for the Big V will look back at this game as a learning experience.
Theoklitos, who has been linked to see action in Europe later this year, was able to garner a couple of key saves: a free kick from Scott Jamieson from distance, and a close tap from United marquis player Paul Agostino.
As for Adelaide, the pain and frustration of being unable to win any piece of silverware continues to linger.
For the thousands who donned red and yellow from the land of the pie floater, the familiar sight of being on the short end of the stick beckoned.
But for the majority of the 53,273 at the Telstra Dome who witnessed the historic moment, the strains of that Best Original Song could not have been more true.
Jai Ho, Melbourne. Jai Ho.
For your Victory, once again, are the kings of Australian football.
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