ASA: Throughout the season Nick Mrdja had the knack of coming off the bench and scoring vital goals for Perth Glory, but none proved more crucial than the one he scored today, his 98th minute `golden goal’ earning his side its second successive NSL Championship.

Mrdja broke the deadlock after both Parramatta Power and Perth had failed to score in terrible conditions at Parramatta Stadium. Rain lashed the stadium prior and during the match with the pitch becoming waterlogged and effectively nullifying both sides passing games.

The win made it back-to-back NSL Championships for Glory, the fifth time it has been achieved, and certainly dispelled the chokers tag that Glory picked after its first two losses.

“I think last year’s win certainly got the monkey off our back so to speak and we were written off by a lot people this season and we were criticised and I think unjustly,” said coach Mich d’Avray.

“Even this week, we were the underdogs and no one gave us much chance outside of Western Australia. I thought the players showed a lot of determination and commitment today and not only did we win the game, I though we deserved to win the game.

“We beat a very good team today, there is no about it, but I also think we are also a very good team.”

“I think it is befitting in the last grand final of the National Soccer League is won by a team or a club that I think have been the benchmark for the National League over the last seven oreight years,” d’Avray added.

The winning goal was started and finished by Mrdja, who’s through ball found Mori, who was played onside by Paul O’Grady.

Mori rode the challenge of Michael Beauchamp and as he cut back past another Power defender the ball fell to Mrdja 12 yards out and he blasted his shot home.

No doubt the first person to congratulate Mrdja was Mori himself, who earlier had missed glorious chances to seal the win himself.

Asked if Mori had thanked him after the two misses could easily have cost his side victory, Mrdja jokinglythanks everyone.”

“No seriously we have come as underdogs and we had nothing to lose and we went out there and won the game 1-0. You can’t complain with that.”

The first of these chances came in the 55th minute and should have been buried by Mori from just six yards out, but with the goal at his mercy he shot over the bar.

The second miss was just four minutes before Mrdja’s winner, after he was presented with a one-on-one chance when Peter Zorbas lost his footing as he went to clear the ball. However Mori stroked his shot wide of the near post and at that stage it must have looked as though it wasn’t going to be Perth’s day.

“I didn’t think we were going to lose,” said d’Avray, when asked if he thought those two misses were going to cost his side victory. “I thought perhaps we might go to penalties though.

“But in saying that, Nick Mrdja has done that a few times for us this season, and I said to him just before he went on that the stage is set for him to go on and get the winner.

It was a match that promised so much, given the attacking talent in both sides, but once the rain set in from around lunchtime,

this match was always headed for hard and tight struggle with one goal likely to decide it. Travis Dodd started the match off in promising fashion for the home side, with an effort over the bar inside the first minute, but this in effect was their only shot at goal until the just

before half time.

As the rain became harder the pitch quickly filled with surface water, with passes getting stuck and players sliding and slipping everywhere.

Parramatta tried to continue with its passing game, but time and again they would turn over possession, as they struggled to get to grips with the conditions.

Ahmad Elrich on several occasions was able to get in behind the defence, but on most occasions his crosses were cut out the Glory defence led superbly by Glory captain Shaun Murphy.

The first real chance of the game came in the 14th minute, when Bobby Despotovski perfectly judged a long ball wide to the left, He cut inside and placed a low cross to Mori at the near post and his flicked shot was parried by Clint Bolton, before being cleared to safety.

One Elrich cross did cause some problems in the 23rd minute, with Petkovic coming out but failing to hold onto the ball and just as Milicic was about pounce on the loose ball, Petkovic managed to flick it away and the Power striker went flying in the air.

In the 29th minute, Glory had another chance when from a free kick the ball fell at Adrian Caceres’ feet, but the water in the goalmouth halted his shot, and from the ensuing scramble Power

was awarded a free kick. Perth was handling the conditions better and in the 37th minute, a neat move down the left side, saw Despotovski’s cross not held down low by Bolton, but the Power keeper managed to top-poke the ball out for a corner before Mori could get a shot in.

Power’s only other attempt at goal came just before half time when Milicic tried an audacious first time shot from outside the box that Petkovic managed to get back and catch comfortably.

Bolton quickly afterwards came to his sides rescue again with a

good low down shot to deny Caceres right on the stroke of half time.

Parramatta changed tact in the second half, going more direct and with Colosimo moving the ball to Elrich at every opportunity and in the 51st minute, Parramatta had its best chance of the match.

Colosimo’s brilliant pass found Elrich and his inch perfect cross, found Milicic, but the NSL Player of the Year could only watch as his header went agonisingly wide of the far post. Four minutes later and Mori missed his first golden chance, as both teams were still able to provide the enthusiastic but rain-sodden crowd with plenty of exciting football.

Saso Petrovski, who largely proved ineffective, then had his best moment of the match in the 74th minute, when he was able to get into the box, but his powerful shot from the left side of the box went across the face of goal.

With both defences holding firm in the trying conditions a succession of shots were tried from long range, but neither side was able to score before the end of 90 minutes and the match went into extra time.

The match should have been all over in the 95th minute when Zorbas slipped as he went to clear but Mori wasted the opportunity. In a way it was good that the goal didn’t come from that, because the game didn’t deserve to won and lost on a mistake and especially not by Zorbas, who was one of Power’s better performers on the day.

But three minutes later it was decided and it was super-sub Mrdja that will take all the plaudits and will have the distinction of scoring the last-ever goal in the NSL.

Elrich received the award for the Marston Medal as the best player on the ground, but in truth Murphy was a tower of strength at the back all through the game and would have been a worthy recipient.

Power coach Nick Theodorakopoulos was obviously shattered by the loss but conceded that on the day Perth had the better chances to win the game.

“I think in all fairness they had those two magnificent chances,” he said philosophically. “I know we had two good chances with Ante in the second half as well Saso Petrovski’s shot just going wide, but on the balance of chances maybe they had the clear-cut chances.”

Asked whether the weather had any bearing on the loss, Theodorakopoulos said it certainly didn’t work to his teams favour.

“The greatest leveller was no doubt the weather.

“As soon as the ground was affected the way that we all saw, (assistant coach) Manfred (Schaefer) said to me, this is a lottery Ni
ck, and as it turned out it was exactly that.”

“Definitely not, but our style of play was certainly not as effective because of the conditions,” when asked point blank if they lost because of the weather.

Elrich summed up the mood of the players, saying, “If you don’t win the grand final it’s a big disappointment.

“What can I say, I am disappointed, all the boys are disappointed, we wanted to go out on a winning note, but on the day conditions didn’t help, so that’s life.”

Glory captain Shaun Murphy, while acknowledging he felt at home in the conditions, didn’t want the weather to be used as the reason for Perth’s win.

“I hope we are not going to parade all the excuses that it (the weather) was a great leveller of the teams.

“I thought we were more determined today. We’ve been hurt over the last couple of weeks, written off and the boys proved today that they’ve got what it takes.”

2003/04 Homeart NSL Grand Final Review

Parramatta Power 0

Perth Glory 1 (N Mrdja 98′)

Cautions: M Byrnes (PG) 62′, A Gumprecht (PP) 86′

Referee: Mark Shield

Venue: Parramatta Power

Crowd: 9,630

Marston Medal – Ahmad Elrich (Parramatta Power)