A MOMENT of brilliance from Dandenong Thunder earned the club its first Victorian Premier League title at AAMI Park on Sunday.
The 2-1 win over Oakleigh Cannons gave the Thunder the treble as they had earlier won the minor premiership and the State Knockout Cup.
With the scores locked at 1-1 and the Thunder down to 10 men, winger Liam Kearney’s quick free kick released Luke Sherbon onto goal who in turn tapped the ball into star striker Nate Foster’s path and the Canadian did the rest hitting home the winning goal.
After a dour first half left scores at 0-0, the second half exploded when Thunder defender Craig Elvin got two yellow cards in the space of a couple of minutes to earn a red card on 59 minutes.
Yet Oakleigh could not make their advantage count and when the Thunder won a free kick on the edge of the box, Sherbon showed his quality smashing home a curling shot into the bottom right corner to give his side a surprise 1-0 lead.
That lead lasted less than 10 minutes as Cannons substitute Dane Milovanovic was brought down in the box by stand-in defender Sean McIlroy.
Cannons star Ricky Diaco stepped up to smash home the penalty on 76 minutes and score for the second consecutive VPL grand final.
The Cannons looked poised to snatch the title only to lose midfielder Luke Walker to a red card when he received his second yellow card for kicking the ball away after a whistle.
With the Cannons down a man, the Thunder created Foster’s decisive goal and hung on in the final minutes to earn the win.
In the final play of the game Cannons players appealed for a handball in the box but were turned down.
Foster won the Jimmy Rooney medal for best player on ground.
In the post game press conference he praised the work of Sherbon and the fight of his teammates.
“To be honest I thought I was offside; I’m not sure if someone kept me on,” he said.
“I knew where I was on the field, it was a really good ball Sherbon played.
“If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have scored.
“The crowd was amazing, they have been there all season, helped us through so it was good to give something back to them.”
Diaco said losing the VPL grand final for the second straight year hurt him terribly but his side had simply not been at its best on the day it mattered most.
“It’s not the best, it’s sort of like a bad dream at the moment but it’s reality,” Diaco said.
“What can you say?
“It’s two years in a row. It hurt last year and I really don’t know how to feel, there really is not much to say, is there.”