Santalab set for last ‘great battle’

Brendon Santalab is glad that the final game of his career will come against old rivals Sydney FC in the A-League Grand Final.

Though the Perth Glory veteran did have a two-year stint with the Sky Blues that ended a decade ago, it's what he's done against Sydney FC since his return to the competition in 2013 that has been perhaps more memorable.

The 36-year-old will be hanging up his boots after Sunday's A-League decider at Optus Stadium, and Steve Corica's team are well aware of his potential to deny them the championship.

Santalab scored two winning goals in derbies against them during his time with Western Sydney Wanderers, whom he helped to win the 2014 Asian Champions League final.

Having followed coach Tony Popovic from Wanderers to Perth this season, he's been their nemesis again as he scored in a 3-1 win for the Glory in January.

"I've had some great battles with Sydney, and there's one last battle to go," he said. "There's some great memories from those games; the derbies were amazing, when I played at the Wanderers.

"But this season I scored against Sydney at home as well and we really dominated that game. If we can play like we did in that game, where we held a lot of the possession and pressed up high, we're going to be in a good position.

"We go into the game confident after a great season, and it's all about preparation and focus now. I'm predicting another crazy, epic match over in Perth."

Santalab, who was twice Western Sydney's leading scorer in a season, is likely to have a place on the bench in the Grand Final.

Perth Glory are 7/10 to win the Grand Final.

The Glory are 11/8 to win in 90 minutes, with Sydney FC 2/1 and the draw 12/5.

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A-League double for Phoenix striker

Roy Krishna is set to be among the most sought-after players in the A-League off-season, after winning the Johnny Warren Medal as the league's top player in 2018/19.

It clinched a competition double for the Fiji international, who had finished two goals clear of Adam Le Fondre to claim the Golden Boot award at the end of the regular season.

Wellington Phoenix want to keep hold of the striker, whose 18-goal tally broke the club record of Jeremy Brockie.

They are understood to have made the 31-year-old a lucrative offer, but he is attracting interest from around the league for a big-money marquee deal.

Krishna becomes the Phoenix's third winner of the Johnny Warren Medal, following Shane Smeltz in 2008-09 and Nathan Burns in 2014-15.

He is reported to have rejected an offer from expansion club Western United, while Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers are also chasing his signature.

Krishna won the player of the season award ahead of Adelaide United's Isaias – who played every minute of his team's 27 games – and Perth Glory's Neil Kilkenny, who were tied for second.

Keisuke Honda of Melbourne Victory, who is leaving at the end of his only campaign with Kevin Muscat's team, was equal-fourth despite only playing 18 goals during the season due to injury.

Despite making the Finals Series under coach Mark Rudan – who has returned to Australia after just one season in charge – Wellington look poised to lose both of the players who won A-League honours.

Keeper Filip Kurto, who was named goalkeeper of the year, is set to link up with Western United.

Ahead of Chris Ikonomidis' bid to win the Grand Final with Perth Glory against Sydney FC this weekend, the Australia international was named the A-League under-23 player of the year.

Glory coach Tony Popovic received the A-League coach of the year award for the second time.

Perth Glory are 4/5 to win the Grand Final.

The Glory are 6/5 to win in 90 minutes, with Sydney FC 9/4 and the draw 12/5.

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Metcalfe tipped as star of the future

Captain Scott Jamieson has identified teenage midfielder Connor Metcalfe as a potential star for Melbourne City, as they look to regroup for next season.

City saw their A-League finals campaign falter at the first hurdle when they lost 1-0 away to Adelaide United in Sunday's elimination final.

Coach Warren Joyce's future at the club is uncertain following the end of his second campaign in charge, and there are bound to be major changes to the squad for 2019/20.

The joint-leading goalscorers of this season, Ritchie De Laet and Riley McGree, will both be returning to their parent clubs at the end of their loan deals – the Belgian to Aston Villa and McGree to Club Brugge.

Striker Shayon Harrison, who scored four goals in his 10 games after signing in mid-season from Tottenham Hotspur, will head back to the Premier League side.

Luke Brattan and Bart Schenkeveld will consider offers in Asia and around the A-League, while keeper Eugene Galekovic may retire.

Jamieson, who is signed up for another two seasons, feels the next player to emerge could be defender Metcalfe who managed just five substitute appearances this campaign.

He has the chance to be the next breakout star after departed Socceroos winger Daniel Arzani, said the skipper.

Speaking of the 19-year-old, Jamieson added: "Connor for me, he's going to be special. I don't talk up players – I didn't talk up Daniel last year but, for me, Connor, I rate him really highly.

"Connor has the attributes to really stamp his authority inside the A-League and then push on to bigger things."

City finished fifth in the league table, five points inside the Finals Series places.

Meanwhile, minor premiers Perth Glory are 6/5 to win the Grand Final.

The Glory are 4/6 to win their semi-final against Adelaide United, who are 4/1 with the draw 14/5.

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Barbarouses ‘enticed’ by overseas move

New Zealand international Kosta Barbarouses is conscious of being in the shop window when Melbourne Victory go into the A-League Finals Series.

Victory, who won the championship last season, take on Wellington Phoenix in their elimination final on Friday.

For Barbarouses, it will be a clash against the team for whom he played in two spells, including when he broke into the A-League in 2007-08.

The 29-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season and admits this could be his last campaign with Kevin Muscat's side.

He finished as the Victory's leading scorer in the regular season with 14, one more than Swedish striker Ola Toivonen.

"[A move] overseas is something that is enticing me at the moment. I can't rule out anything," said Barbarouses. "Instead of being nervous about it, I'm excited about what my options are going to be and what the end situation is going to look like.

"I need to see what Victory can do for me, what I'm worth to them … not saying that in a negative way but that's the way the cap works."

Barbarouses, who is 11 appearances away from the 200-game milestone in the A-League, won his third championship last season with Victory.

He was part of the Brisbane Roar side that won the double of championship and Premiers' Plate in 2010-11, and he helped Victory match that feat in 2014-15.

The Wellington-born player, who has played 47 times for the All Whites, said: "I'm confident there's going to be quite a bit of interest with the season I've had; I know my finals performances are probably going to dictate it. I want to finish on a high and then see what happens."

Melbourne Victory are 11/2 to win the Grand Final.

The Victory are 8/11 to win their elimination final against Wellington Phoenix, who are 16/5 with the draw 3/1.

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Vargas among six released

Venezuelan midfielder Ronald Vargas is among six Newcastle Jets players to be told they won't be retained for next season.

All the six have come to the end of their contracts after Ernie Merrick's team missed out on the Finals Series.

Full-back Daniel Georgievski, who has played 42 times for the club over the past two seasons, is among the departures as is Brazilian forward Jair.

The others are Jake Adelson, Kwabena Appiah and Nick Cowburn, who has been with Newcastle since 2014 when he made his debut as a 19-year-old and has made 67 appearances.

Vargas missed most of last season with injury before returning for the Finals Series when the Jets were beaten by Melbourne Victory in the Grand Final. He leaves after scoring seven goals this season from 23 appearances.

Jair only scored twice in his 20 games for Newcastle, having joined on a free transfer before the start of the season, while midfielder Appiah played just once after being signed as an injury replacement player in mid-season.

The Jets finished runners-up to Sydney FC last season when they won 15 games, but this time around they were five points off the top six.

Merrick thanked the departing players for their contribution, saying: "Each of these players have been model professionals, great characters, and made a positive contribution to this club during their time here.

"I'd like to thank them for their efforts and on behalf of everyone at the Jets, wish them the very best for the next step in their careers."

Meanwhile, minor premiers Perth Glory are 11/10 to win the Grand Final. Australia are 250/1 to win the 2020 World Cup.

Glory end with five-star display

Andy Keogh scored twice in the first half to set Perth Glory on their way to a 5-0 victory against Wellington Phoenix in the final game of the A-League regular season.

The defeat means Wellington drop to sixth in the final standings and will have to travel to Melbourne Victory in the first week of the Finals Series.

For the Glory, who had already secured the Premiers' Plate, it was an 18th win of the campaign as they finished eight points clear of runners-up Sydney FC.

Phoenix coach Mark Rudan opted to rest six starters including Golden Boot winner Roy Krishna and skipper Andrew Durante. Had they done any better than losing to Perth by two goals it would have meant an elimination final away to Adelaide United, who they have not beaten in four years.

That prospect virtually disappointed inside the first half hour when Keogh netted a brace.

The Irish striker first converted after Diego Castro struck the crossbar, then seven minutes later he headed past back-up keeper Oli Sail from a Jason Davidson cross.

Keogh launched the move that led to the third goal on 51 minutes, with Castro slotting home from Ivan Franjic's cross.

Perth made it 4-0 midway through the second half as Castro played a through-ball for Chris Ikonomidis to run onto and drill a shot past Sail. The effort was initially flagged for offside but then awarded by the VAR.

With seven minutes left Brendon Santalab, who has confirmed he will retire at the end of the season, stepped clear of his marker and tapped in Glory's fifth.

Rudan said after the game: "We used the game for our own purposes and we got what we needed out of the game as far as I'm concerned. The result [is] irrelevant.

"We knew what we had to do today and there were some things that worked and some that didn't but again most of the guys who started have not had much game time this year. No problems."

Wellington are 20/1 to win the Grand Final while Australia are 250/1 to win the 2020 World Cup.

Win could cost City derby final

Melbourne City face missing out on a blockbuster elimination final against Melbourne Victory following their 5-0 thrashing of Central Coast.

City have gone public this week about how much they would relish taking on their rivals in the first week of the finals.

But they may have cost themselves the chance to do so due to the size of their final-round win over the Mariners.

They will only face Victory if they finish sixth, which is the position they occupy ahead of the final regular season game that sees the Phoenix travel to Perth Glory.

But with City now level on points and just one goal behind Wellington, Mark Rudan's team could slip below them on Sunday – if they do, City will travel to Adelaide United rather than have an AAMI Park clash with Victory.

Warren Joyce's side were far too good for the wooden spoon side in their final game, with the Mariners suffering a 20th defeat of the campaign.

Shayon Harrison was a star for the hosts, scoring twice, while the best goal of the night was the final effort from youngster Ramy Najjarine.

Captain Scott Jamieson returned to action in more than a month for City, who took 35 minutes to get off the mark.

On-loan striker Harrison dribbled into the Mariners penalty area where he went past Jacob Melling and Matt Millar before dropping a shoulder and beating Jem Karacan and sliding a left-foot shot in off the far post.

Three minutes before the break Jamieson's cross picked out Riley McGree for an emphatic volleyed finish from close range.

City took only three minutes of the second half to add to their tally as Dario Vidosic swept in Lachlan Wales' pass across the face of goal.

The fourth goal followed soon after, with Wales again the provider. This time he slid a pass through to Harrison who got round Samuel Graham before shooting home under Adam Pearce in the Mariners goal.

Najjarine notched his first A-League goal in stoppage time with a fierce drive from outside the area.

Idris Abdulahi, at 16, became City's youngest ever player when he came off the bench in the 81st minute.

Melbourne City are 20/1 to win the Grand Final.

Meanwhile, minor premiers Perth Glory are 4/7 to win their next game against Wellington Phoenix, who are 9/2 with the draw 10/3.

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No risk over Ikonomidis say Glory

Socceroos striker Chris Ikonomidis will return for Perth Glory when they round off the A-League regular season at home to Wellington on Sunday.

Ikonomidis, who has scored eight goals in his 16 appearances this season, is back for the first time since dislocating his right shoulder three weeks ago.

Coach Tony Popovic said of the 23-year-old: "Playing Chris is logical; the boy is fit, he has been training. There is no risk attached to the injury, if there was he wouldn't be playing and we'd save him for a couple of weeks time."

Perth have already secured the Premiers' Plate, along with a place in the Asian Champions League next season and a bye in the first round of the Finals Series before staging a home semi-final.

Popovic said: "The most important aspect for us is the performance and that will give us momentum. We've shown this year that whenever we've done that we've come out on top."

The Glory will be facing a Phoenix side who know that anything worse than a one-goal defeat will drop them to sixth place in the final table.

That would see Mark Rudan's side travel to defending premiers Melbourne Victory in their elimination final, rather than take on Adelaide United.

Perth have lost only two of their past 10 meetings with Wellington and posted a 3-0 win at HBF Park in their most recent meeting in February.

The Glory's only confirmed absentee for Sunday is Alex Grant who is continuing his recovery from a virus, while the likes of Jason Davidson, Andy Keogh and Dino Djulbic all return to the selection mix.

Perth Glory are 5/4 to win the Grand Final.

The Glory are 4/7 to win their next game against Wellington, who are 9/2 with the draw 10/3.

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Jets hand Brisbane heaviest home loss

Newcastle Jets ran riot against Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium, handing the home side a 6-1 hammering.

Roy O'Donovan and Joey Champness both scored twice in the penultimate round clash between two sides who have failed to make the A-League Finals Series.

It was Brisbane's record home defeat and confirmed that the Roar will finish next to bottom in the table.

The Jets, who made it five consecutive wins over Brisbane, took control with two goals in a four-minute period midway through the first half.

Winger Champness sliced open the right side of the Roar's defence before cutting inside firing a shot that was deflected into the corner of the net.

The youngster then went around the outside of Daniel Leck to tee up O'Donovan's instinctive finish.

Jamie Young made a good save from Angus Thurgate to keep Newcastle from adding to their tally before the interval.

Darren Davies' team pulled a goal back four minutes into the second half when 18-year-old Jack Duncan followed up to net after keeper Lewis Italiano had failed to hold a fierce Dylan Wenzel-Halls strike.

Six minutes later O'Donovan had his second of the night when he headed home Ivan Vujica's cross, and the visitors scored twice more in a three-minute spell.

Kaine Sheppard's left-footed strike deflected in off the head of Dimitri Petratos to make it 4-1 and Champness tapped in to complete his double.

Substitute Kwabena Appiah-Kubi rounded off the scoring in added time, tucking away a one-on-one.

It was a particularly disappointing night for the Roar given that they hoped to send captain Matt McKay off into retirement on a positive note.

McKay will make his final appearance in the final round clash at home to Adelaide United.

Meanwhile, minor premiers Perth Glory are 13/10 to win the Grand Final. Sydney FC are priced at 2/1 with Melbourne Victory 5/1.

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Simon double earns Mariners third win

Central Coast are already certain of finishing bottom of the A-League, but they gave their fans something to cheer when they beat Western Sydney 3-1.

The Mariners won for just the third time this season in their final home game of the campaign.

Skipper Matt Simon scored twice, including one from the penalty spot, as the Gosford club ended Wanderers' five-game winning streak at Central Coast Stadium.

Western Sydney, coming off a 1-1 derby draw with Sydney, fell behind 11 minutes before the break when they conceded a free-kick just outside the box.

Simon took a long run up to the ball and smashed it through the wall beyond teenage keeper Jack Greenwood.

The Mariners doubled their lead seven minutes into the second half when Greenwood struck Jordan Murray in the face when trying to punch clear a high ball.

Murray did his best to keep out Simon's powerful penalty, but despite getting a hand to the shot he couldn't keep it out.

The keeper made a full stretch save to deny Aiden O'Neill four minutes later, but defender Kye Rowles scored his first A-League goal with a header off the ensuing corner kick from Jack Clisby.

Mark Bridge came off the bench for his 250th A-League appearance and within seconds got onto the scoresheet when he smashed home a penalty after Jacob Melling pushed Rashid Mahazi over inside the box.

Wanderers had an extra man for the final four minutes, after Rowles was shown a straight red card for a dangerous, lunging challenge on Alexander Baumjohann.

The visitors had two late chances to reduce the deficit but Mariners keeper Adam Pearce made a diving save to deny Bruce Kamau and Abraham Majok blasted over the crossbar five minutes into added time.

Meanwhile, minor premiers Perth Glory are 13/10 to win the Grand Final while Sydney FC are 2/1 and Melbourne Victory 5/1.

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