ACL: Wanderers become champions of Asia

-

After an exhilarating and mentally exhausting game, the Western Sydney Wanderers managed to secure their title as the Asian Champions of 2014, with a 0-0 draw against Al-Hilal securing their victory.

In the true fashion of a final, the game opened with an exceptional crowd figure and an amazing tifo that only added to the importance of this final leg of the AFC Champions League.

Al-Hilal began the game very similarly to the home leg, using quick passes and maintaining possession through pushing down on the left hand side of the field consequently causing some serious problems for the Wanderers.

Lasers shot from supporters in the stands were evidently covering Ante Covic and forced many of the defenders to block the ball from entering the back of the net.

This was seen through Al Faraj’s attempts to drive the ball across the front of the goal mouth and Wanderers Captain Nikolai Topor-Stanley scrambling to clear the ball.

Al-Hilal player Nawaf made a brilliant run but got knocked over near the goal which also saw Mateo Poljak slipping into a defensive role by clearing the ball.

The Saudi Arabian club for most of the game continuously kicked the ball across the front of the goal in attempts to cut infront of Wanderers Central defenders Topor-Stanley and Brendan Hamil to score a goal.

The Wanderers in the first half failed to maintain possession and control of the ball with consecutive fouls enabling Thiago Neves to make a free kick that goes wide.

Brendon Santalab, who was under contention for even playing the match due to a shoulder injury that he received during the home leg, received a forearm into the back of his head which saw him dramatically fall onto the ground with fears of another injury clouding over the team from Western Sydney.

Yet once again, a free kick by Neves goes to the furthest Al-Hilal player in the area in an attempt to volley it across the goal. Despite the calls for a handball by a Wanderers player, neither one of these scenarios for the Saudi Arabian team eventuated in any action.

Wanderer Iacopo La Rocca began to take initiative for the Red and Black giving Haliti a beautiful ball that bounced directly into the keeper.

The free kicks continued with Neves taking almost all of them for the entire game, which ultimately proved the same results with MVP of the match goalkeeper Ante Covic punching the ball out.

A mistake by Shannon Cole enabled Al-Hilal to capitalise on the counter almost providing them with a 1-0 lead, except once again they shot the ball wide.

Certainly an increasing amount of pressure was seen in both teams attacks in the final 10 minutes of the first half. Neves sprinted past the Wanderers players but striked the ball directly into Shannon Cole.

This eventuated into a corner for Al-Hilal that later enabled him to skim the ball over the top of the net.

Al-Hilal player Pintili was sliced down by Wanderer Antony Golec which saw calls for a penalty, but thankfully for the Red and Black these calls were silenced.

The final minute of extra time saw determination by Al-Hilal and survival by the Wanderers, with the next 45 minutes forcing the outcome of the AFC Champions League final.

Al-Hilal began the second half repeating how they seem to have started both legs, with pure energy and determination with the ball effortlessly flowing between the ‘blue wave’.

Haliti managed to take the ball quite easily off Neves with Santalab later generating a foul to break up the play and the continual possession by Al-Hilal.

The opening two minutes saw Neves retake his role of designated free-kick taker, driving the ball into the near post but Ante Covic despite the 80s disco ball flashing into his eyes, managed to save the ball.

The first substitution of the game was led by the Wanderers taking Kwabena Appiah off and replacing him with Vitor Saba, which also saw Al-Hilal seconds later slyly trying to quickly take a free kick that ultimately ended up in an offside.

Tensions between Nassir and Covic that were first seen at the home leg continued at the away, with Nassir stepping on Covic’s foot certainly with the intentions of riling the keeper up.

A ball from Nawaf to Salman pushed Brendan Hamill to clear the ball with Al-Hilal taking off midfielder Saud Kariri replacing him with attacker Yasser Alqahtani in the hopes that this would make a change to the current 0-0 scenario in the final.

The Wanderers on a similar note replaced Santalab and brought on Tomi Juric in the 57th providing the Wanderers with the ammunition to secure the draw.

A ball from Nawaf to Yasser saw an extremely strong and sharp kick into ball which pulsated past Covic, with the ball smashing into the sponsor signage next to the goal echoing throughout King Fahd Stadium.

Covic later dived to save a ball but also tackled Al-Hilal player Salman, which led to even more calls for a penalty.

Al-Hilal continued their attempts at penetrating the Wanderers defence with Neves trying to curve the ball into the back of the net in the 71st minute.

Vitor Saba led the Wanderers force with a captivating play which showed his awareness of where Haliti positioned, passing the ball to him but Haliti was unable to finish the job.

The 76th minute saw a multitude of changes made by both sides with Al-Hilal taking off Neves and replacing him with Shalhoub, whilst the Wanderers replaced La Rocca with Matthew Spiranovic, certainly suggesting the Wanderers intentions to continue to prevent Al-Hilal from attacking.

Al-Shamrani continued Al-Hilals attacking streak with a brilliant opportunity missed, as he kicked the ball straight at Wanderers goal-keeper Covic.

The Wanderers defence certainly had its exceptional moments, even when Hamill scrambled to clear the ball away from enemy territory and managed to kick the ball in full force into the back of Topor-Stanley’s head.

The last 10 minutes of the game were crucial for both sides and were very stressful for both clubs supporters with Al-Hilal and the Wanderers making some serious progress.

This saw the save of the match, and if not the competition, with Yasser shooting the ball at Covic who managed to stretch his right hand out and just send the ball away from the net – almost as if it was rolling away in slow motion.

Al-Hilal in the final moments took Nawaf off with Zori coming on, whilst Cole performed his signature corner providing Juric with the ammunition to fire at the keeper in the 87th minute.

Five minutes of stoppage time was given and this saw Covic continue to make some brilliant saves, even receiving a yellow card for taking too long to kick the ball in hopes that this would prevent any further attacks by Al-Hilal.

The final seconds saw a long ball across the front of the goal led again by Al-Hilal, but as the final whistle blew the Wanderers secured the 0-0 draw providing them with the title of Asian Champions of 2014.

This game, without question, was one of the most prolific events in Australian football history, with the first ever Australian side taking out the title.

Western Sydney Wanderers starting XI: Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY (C), Antony GOLEC, Shannon COLE, Mateo POLJAK, Iacopo LA ROCCA, Mark BRIDGE, Kwabena APPIAH, Brendon SANTALAB, Labinot HALITI and Ante COVIC (GK).

Western Sydney Wanderers substitutes substitutes: Daniel MULLEN, Matthew SPIRANOVIC, Jason TRIFIRIO, Vitor SABA, Jaushua SOTIRIO, Tomi JURIC ad Dean BOUZANIS (GK).

Al-Hilal starting XI: Saud KARIRI (C), Nasser AL SHAMRANI, Nawaf Shaker F AL ABID, Thiago NEVES, Salem Mohammed S AL DAWSARI, Doru Mihai PINTILI, Salman AL FARAJ, Kwak TAE-HWI, DIGAO, Yasir AL SHAHRANI and Abdullah Mohammed S AL SDAIRY (GK).

Al-Hilal substitutes: Abdulla Zori ALDOSSARY, Mohammed ALQARNI, Mohammed AL SHALOUB, Abdulaziz AL DAWSARI, Yousef ALSALEM, Yasser ALQAHTANI and Fahad Mohammed A ALTHUNYYAN (GK).

Enjoy this content? Support The Football Sack

Due in part to COVID and lack of current sponsorship we are at risk of not having the funds to continue running The Football Sack. If you enjoy our content and support our work in training talented young writers, please support us with a donation. If every reader contributed just $3, our funding would be covered for over ten years.

DONATE

Learn with us

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

Latest Articles

Love your football?
Subscribe to our weekly football wrap. During the season we'll send you all the week's football action straight to your inbox.
* indicates required