Merrick: Archie injury cost us

Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick admitted the loss of star striker Archie Thompson to a serious knee injury was simply one setback too many for his injury-battered team to cope with after it went down on penalties to Sydney FC in the 2010 Hyundai A-League Grand Final on Saturday night.

Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick admitted the loss of star striker Archie Thompson to a serious knee injury was simply one setback too many for his injury-battered team to cope with after it went down on penalties to Sydney FC in the 2010 Hyundai A-League Grand Final on Saturday night.

The Victory's bid to become the first Hyundai A-League club to win back-to-back titles and the first to win three championships overall ended with a 4-2 defeat in the penalty shoot-out after scores had been locked at 1-1 at full-time.

It was the first time a Hyundai A-League Grand Final had been decided on penalties and the first time a club had lost a championship decider on its home ground.

However it was the loss of Thompson - who scored five goals in Melbourne's 2007 Grand Final win over Adelaide - in the 16th minute that proved to be the fatal blow to Victory's championship hopes.

Thompson, who scored the winning goal in the second leg of the major semi-final against Sydney a fortnight ago to ensure Melbourne hosted the grand final in what was his first game in five weeks following a fractured foot, suffered his new injury after an accidental clash of knees with Sydney defender Simon Colosimo.

Victory later confirmed Thompson had torn his anterior cruciate ligament, an injury that is likely to sideline him for much of next season also.

It was the third major knee injury suffered by a Melbourne player this season following on from Billy Celeski and Matthew Kemp.

"In the end I guess it was," Merrick said after the game when asked if the loss of Thompson was just one blow too many for Melbourne to recover from in a season in which even skipper Kevin Muscat - who missed one of Melbourne's two penalty misses on Saturday night - has spent time on the sidelines.

Merrick said Melbourne did not play with its usual attacking spark once Thompson limped off.

"We really missed Archie up front," Merrick said.

"And (fellow striker) Robbie Kruse was also out on his feet at the end and Carlos (Hernandez) was exhausted and we didn't have our usual spark."

"I thought our boys fought back really well but we just struggled to get players into the (penalty) box and you have to get players into the box to score."

"We created some good stuff but there wasn't that killer instinct like normal and you can always tell with us because if we are not getting in behind the defence and playing through balls in behind the defence then we are not playing our normal game."

But Merrick praised the character of his team for fighting back through Adrian Leijer's 81st minute header after Mark Bridge's 63rd minute opener appeared to have put Sydney on course for the win.

However Merrick felt Melbourne then wasted its best opportunity to win the match when it dominated the rest of the 90 minutes with Aziz Behich missing a great chance to win the game in the 87th minute while another header from Leijer narrowly went over.

"I was disappointed we didn't win the game in 90 minutes," Merrick said while also critical of Sydney's physical attempts to stop Melbourne playing its usual attacking brand of football with their tactics rarely getting punished by the referee.

"I was a bit frustrated that every time we had an attack there would be a blatant professional foul and we had to stop and start again and there weren't too many yellow cards being handed out, which was disappointing."

"But towards the end of normal time I thought we had chances to score."