Campbelltown City have claimed their third successive NPL South Australia Champions title, conquering Adelaide Comets for the second time in as many seasons with a resounding 3-1 win under the Friday night lights of Coopers Stadium.
Joshua Barresi, Marc Marino and Blake Carpenter all got on the scoresheet for the newly-crowned champions, while Allan Welsh scored the only goal for the defeated runners-up.
Campbelltown, who finished the league season in second place on the ladder behind their opponents in the decider, entered the contest off the back of a 4-0 thrashing of Adelaide City in the Preliminary Final.
Comets, meanwhile, won their way straight through to the big stage with a 3-0 aggregate victory over Campbelltown in their two-legged semi-final, which marked their first triumph over the Red Devils since the first leg of the 2019 Semi-Final.
It was Campbelltown who started more promisingly in attack, capitalising on a Comets outfit showing the rust of a team that hadn’t played in almost a month in the early stages of the game.
Marino almost opened the scoring inside the first five minutes for the second consecutive Grand Final, running onto a long ball but unable to convert from close range thanks to the solid coverage of Comets keeper Daniel Vaughan.
It wasn’t long before Campbelltown grabbed a deserved lead through Barresi, who pounced on an error and dribbled past the blue shirts in defence before coolly slotting past the keeper from close range in the 12th minute.
Alexander Mullen was inches away from a miracle strike shortly after, thumping a dipping shot from 30 yards out that was only just tipped over the bar with a fingertip save by Vaughan.
Campbelltown doubled their lead just eight minutes after their first goal thanks to a blistering counterattack completed by Marino, who displayed his rapid pace in burning off the Comets defenders around him and lashing a ferocious shot into the bottom corner.
The minor premiers’ first real chance of the game came in the 26th minute, when an Allan Welsh header from a perfectly-weighted Jayden LoBasso cross was kept out by a sharp reflex catch from keeper Nicholas Harpas.
Campbelltown were dealt a major blow in the 33rd minute when Marino pulled up short with what appeared to be a groin complaint, leaving them without their main target man for the rest of the match.
Harpas survived a scare in first-half injury time, fumbling a Comets corner that was eventually cleared to preserve their two goal advantage heading into the break.
Comets started out the better side in the second 45, shrugging off their slow start to produce the first big opportunity of the half.
LoBasso won the ball outside the box and struck it beautifully, denied once again by the steady glovework of Harpas.
It looked as though the game was put to bed when Carpenter scored against the run of play in the 64th minute, hitting a powerful shot that found the back of the net via the keeper’s body.
The drama of the decider had yet to wear off, however, as a contentious penalty was called after the ball struck the hand of a Campbelltown defender inside the box.
Comets skipper Welsh converted from the spot, netting his 19th goal of the season to cut the deficit to two goals and hand his side a lifeline with 22 minutes left to play.
The goal proved scant consolation, though, as Campbelltown rode out the contest until they were declared champions at the final whistle.
Campbelltown midfielder Alexander Mullen was named player of the match for his commanding display in the centre of the park throughout the contest.
A crowd of 3,212 came through the gates to watch the first match at Coopers Stadium in almost 12 months on a night where conditions turned out perfect for football.