ACL: Wanderers book Champions League Final ticket

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Within the opening minutes of the Asian Football Confederation Champions League Semi-Final, the Western Sydney Wanderers were on their way to cementing their place in Australian football history, as well as claiming an AFC Champions League Final position, with a 2-0 win over FC Seoul.

From a superb cross that was poorly defended by the Korean goalkeeper Yu Sanghun, the ball deflected into the feet of Western Sydney player Mateo Poljak, who had a clear shot and lobbed the ball into the net from long distance.

The Wanderers had pushed ahead early with the first goal etched into the memory of all the supporters, which was certainly a beautiful sight to behold.

The team from Western Sydney did not sit back following their goal, with Brendon Santalab receiving another opportunity to increase their lead soon after.

FC Seoul were gaining vast amounts of momentum as the game progressed, finding gaps in the Wanderers’ defence to loop through which consequently earned Lee Woong-Hee the first yellow card of the game.

The 15th minute saw Santalab knocked down with the crowd erupting for a yellow card, but this was dismissed to continue the free-flowing vibe of the game.

The Semi-Final continued with heated passion with a late tackle by Wanderer Daniel Mullen, which was luckily not penalised by the referee and enabled a relatively successful corner from the Korean team.

The Wanderers continued their pursuit of increasing the score, with Mark Bridge making successful ground that was exploited on the counterattack led by FC Seoul’s strong attacking line.

Many of FC Seoul’s attempts on goal were perfectly on target, which enabled Ante Covic to shine in his role inside the goal.

The momentum before the conclusion of the first half certainly did not deteriorate, with a pinball-like scenario led by FC Seoul in the Wanderers’ territory putting the entire stadium on edge until the Wanderers defence cleared the ball.

Kim Chi-Woo of FC Seoul must be acknowledged for his endless work in preventing Shannon Cole from getting the ball and agitating the entire crowd with his presence – certainly a standout from the Korean squad in the first half.

The second half saw Cha Du-Ri and Koh Myong-Jin try to drive the ball through the Wanderers solid defence from the onset, resulting in Molina Uribe receiving a yellow card for a very late tackle on Wanderers captain and crowd favourite Nikolai Topor-Stanley.

Labinot Haliti, who arguably had one of the best games in his career, created a miraculous cross that enabled Shannon Cole to head the ball in and raise the Wanderers’ lead to 2-0.

Whilst the goal was spectacular, the post-goal celebration wasn’t. Shannon Cole’s back flip was certainly a fail and if anything, almost put his already injured wrist in danger once more.

But this was forgiven by the crowd who were in a moment of ecstasy, distracted by what the Wanderers could achieve in the Semi-Final.

The 2-0 lead by the Wanderers certainly sparked an energy that was missing by the Korean team with Molina Uribe making a momentous shot that just skimmed across the top of the crossbar; certainly a game changer if it went in.

However, the united Western Sydney Wanderers squad saw out the remainder of the game and once  again silenced their critics and achieved what was certainly perceived by the general media to be impossible.

The Wanderers proceed into the Asian Football Confederation’s Champions League Grand Final with their 2-0 victory over FC Seoul.

Ante Covic’s transformation during the off-season through examining his goalkeeping technique and turning into a modern day sweeper keeper was definitely shown, with some miraculous saves that showed that he was definitely in his best career-form yet.

Wanderers head coach Tony Popovic expressed his expected delight after all was said and done, running out of words for a side still in its preseason.

Popovic concluded that the final result is fantastic for Australian football, certainly cementing the Wanderers in Australian football history once again, a tremendous effort for Australia’s newest-oldest club.

Wanderers starting XI: Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY (C), Shannon COLE, Labinot HALITI, Mateo POLJAK, Brendon SANTALAB, Brendan HAMILL, Iacopo LA ROCCA, Mark BRIDGE, Daniel MULLEN, Antony GOLEC and Ante COVIC (gk).

Wanderers Bench: Vitor SABA, Kwabena APPIAH, Yianni PERKATIS, Dean BOUZANIS, Jason TRIFIRO, Jaushau SOTIRIO and Daniel ALESSI.

FC Seoul starting XI: Kim JIN KYU (C), Lee WOONGHEE, Kim JUYOUNG, Cha DU RI, Kim CHIWOO, EVERTON Leandro Dos Santos Pinto, MOLINA Uribe, Park HEESEONG, Koh MYONGJIN, OSMAR Barba Ibanez and Yu SANGHUN.

FC Seoul bench: Kim YONGDAE, Cho HYOJIN, Go YOHAN, Kang SEUNGJO, Kim HYUNSUNG, Ko KWANG MIN, Lee SANGHYEOB.

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Jessica Csaszar
Jessica joined the team for 2014 covering Western Sydney Wanderers in the Westfield W-League and Hyundai A-League.

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