Williams out of A-League grand final, hope remains for youngster
Melbourne Victory are resigned to being without defensive linchpin Rhys Williams in the A-League grand final.
The ex-Socceroos stopper tore his calf in the warm-up to the club's remarkable 3-2 semi-final triumph over Sydney FC, an injury that makes a turnaround to compete in Newcastle on Saturday night impossible.
While Williams will watch on from the stands, Victory hold hope that Christian Theoharous will be fit to play at McDonald Jones Stadium.
The youngster was on the receiving end of an ugly Luke Wilkshire tackle in the dying moments of the match.
Theoharous's injury is non-structural and Victory believe the 19-year-old will contend to take up his usual position on the bench.
On another night, Wilkshire's tackle might have been deemed worthy of a red card.
Instead it was lost in the madness of the final minutes after Terry Antonis's breakaway winner and the subsequent pitch invasion.
Victory were forced into another mad scramble at Allianz Stadium when Williams was came off in the final minutes of the warm-up.
But the subsequent showing from the back four in Williams's absence has coach Kevin Muscat unworried for the grand final.
Thomas Deng, who shifted to centre-back, blanketed golden boot winner Bobo, while Lawrence Thomas made an incredible 10 saves across the 120 minutes.
Muscat called Deng "the best player on the park" before demoting him to second place behind Thomas.
"(Thomas) was outstanding. I forgot about him when I said Tommy Deng was man of the match," he said.
"He pulled off some very very good saves. He was constant throughout. His performance was outstanding as was his decision-making.
"It was a great performance and a great night for us."
Thomas agreed his performance was a career high.
"In terms of what the game meant, I'd say yeah," he said.
"It's probably the most impact I've had in a final or a top, top game."
The 25-year-old said he couldn't help but laugh as Antonis' own goal brought extra-time.
"I honestly couldn't believe it. I started walking off," he said.
"I just thought 'surely it can't be happening' … especially after last year.
"I had a little giggle to myself. I tend to play my best when I'm relaxed and laughing."
Williams will sit in the stands alongside banned coaches Jean-Paul de Marigny and Dean Anastasiadis after they were handed four-match suspensions for their roles in the unsightly pitch invasion.
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