Wanderers win great for Australian football

ALL hail Ante Covic and the Western Sydney Wanderers.

Two years after coming into existence, the Western Sydney club is now the champion of Asia after overcoming almost insurmountable odds throughout the tournament.

And as for yesterday morning's second leg of the final in Riyadh against Al-Hilal - that had everything.

Three shouts for penalties which could and probably should have been given to the home side, lasers shone in Covic's face almost constantly through the game, a couple of headbutts and a spitting incident which threatened to turn post-match celebrations into an all-in brawl.

It had all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster, yet it was all true and somehow Tony Popovic's men came out the other side with the Asian Champions League trophy.

A Saudi journalist claimed in a pre-match press conference that the Wanderers were lucky to be in the final.

That may be true, and they were certainly lucky that Japanese referee Nishimura Yuichi denied the home side those penalties.

They also might have been lucky to turn around a campaign which began with a 3-1 home defeat against Ulsan Hyundai.

But you cannot deny that Popovic and his players deserved a bit of luck after what they had to go through during the ACL campaign.

The coach was rightly proud of what he and his players had achieved.

"We were called a small club yesterday. Today we are the biggest in Asia," Popovic said.

"It is still a little surreal for me as a coach. I am sure it will hit home in the next few days when we reflect.

"I am just proud for these players and our club.

"The first time in the competition, to win it, I think in the future we will really understand how special this run has been.

"We don't have the resources or the funds that some of these other teams have, but we have something that money can't buy, the desire to win, the resilience to play for each other and do anything we can to win.

"No money can buy that."

The Wanderers might not have the resources, but what they do have is an amazing team spirit and no player typifies that more than Covic.

Just before the club was formed, the keeper was told by then new Melbourne Victory coach Ange Postecoglou he was surplus to requirements.

Western Sydney picked him up and two years later at the age of 39 he is an Asian Champions League winner.

A letter of thanks could soon be headed Postecoglou's way because there is no doubt Covic was the reason his side won the title.

He wasn't the only hero, but he was the biggest and he, like the rest of this fledgling club, deserves to be toasted as the best club side in Asia.

Now the Wanderers will head off to next month's FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco to play Mexican team Cruz Azul on December 13, with the winner to play Real Madrid.

It doesn't get better than that, and the Wanderers deserve that chance.


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