Croydon Kings were crowned the 2014 South Australia National Premier League champions, coming from behind to defeat MetroStars 2-1 in front of 3200 spectators at Coopers Stadium.
Scott Tunbridge put MetroStars ahead, but Shaun McGreevy equalised from the penalty spot, before Rocco Visconte scored the winner.
The win ends a 37-year championship drought, adding to Croydon’s three previous First Division titles in 1955, 1975 and 1977.
Visconte said the clubrooms at Polonia Reserve were full after the win.
“It was great for the club and it was great to see so many people there supporting the club. It was a great night,” Visconte said.
However, MetroStars controlled the early proceedings, putting a nervous Croydon under pressure from the first whistle.
In the seventh minute, league top scorer Perry Mitris turned on a dime on the edge of the penalty area, before firing a low drive just wide of the upright.
But two minutes later, Tunbridge nodded in at the near post to give MetroStars the lead, meeting a David Menechella cross with a glancing header.
Croydon captain Luke Klimek almost equalised in the 12th minute, chesting down the ball in the penalty area, before sending a thunderous half volley just over the crossbar.
In the 15th minute, Tunbridge found space to shoot from close range after a Mitris free kick from deep, but the striker fired straight at Croydon shot stopper Nicholas Munro.
MetroStars continued to search for a second and came close in the 38th minute when Matthew Deegan met a Mitris free kick, but headed just inches over the bar.
MetroStars were made to pay four minutes later, when referee David Alberton pointed to the spot after McGreevy was clipped in the penalty area.
McGreevy stepped up to take the spot kick and buried it into the bottom corner just before the half time break.
Croydon came firing out of the blocks in the second half, with Nathan Farrell whipping in a cross to Andreas Weins, who nodded the ball into the path of McGreevy, but the goalscorer’s shot crashed against the side netting.
Visconte, who was a constant threat down the right flank in the second half, skipped past two defenders in the 66th minute, but Metro keeper Daniel Godley came across quickly to block his shot.
But Croydon would snatch the lead in the 69th minute, when a corner scramble fell to Visconte, who stabbed the ball into the far corner with his back to goal.
Metro searched desperately for an equaliser and with seven minutes remaining, Steven Grelli slipped Anthony Solagna through on goal, but Munro was quick off his line to claim the ball.
Metro peppered Croydon’s goal with four injury time corners, but Mark Brazzale’s men defended strongly to hold on and clinch the title.
Visconte said Croydon came out strongly after the half time break.
“I thought Metro got the better of us in the first 25-30 minutes. I think that we sort of panicked a bit, but then after they scored, we calmed down and started playing our game, then we got that goal,” Visconte said.
“From there, we didn’t look back, then in the second half, we kept pushing and pushing and we got the second goal.”
Visconte capped off a spectacular night by claiming the Man of the Match award.
“At the start of the season, when I sat down with [coach] Mark Brazzale, we set goals and one was to win trophies and the other one was for me to pick up any sort of individual awards that I could get,” he said.
“Getting that award made me happy, but winning the game meant a lot more. We worked hard all year, starting from November in preseason and it’s hard to describe the feeling, but it’s a great feeling.”
Meanwhile, MetroStars finish the season as premiers – but not champions – for the second year running.
Coach Ivan Karlovic said he was proud of his team’s achievements despite the result.
“I don’t think we played to our full capacity and obviously in big games if you don’t play to your full potential you run the risk of not getting the result,” Karlovic said.
“The boys have been the best side over the course of the year; it’s unfair to judge them on one game, not taking anything away from Croydon because they’ve had a fantastic year themselves.
“But I’m proud of them and really pleased with what they’ve been able to achieve.”
Having won the minor premiership, MetroStars will represent South Australia in the NPL Playoffs, travelling to take on Bayswater City in Western Australia on Saturday.
Karlovic said MetroStars would go into the series with no pressure.
“We’ll go out there and play and we’ll see how we go. Its unchartered territory; a lot of the teams we don’t know a lot about,” he said.
“We’ll give it our best shot and hopefully we’ll represent the state and our league in the best possible light.”
Karlovic will step down from his coaching role after the NPL Playoffs and he said he looks forward to being a spectator for the first time in his life.
Image courtesy of Adam Butler