End-to-End: Round 4

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Taking a look at all the weekend’s action, we investigate who had a thoroughly enjoyable weekend and who couldn’t wait for the sound of their Monday alarm.

For a week the A-League and W-League took a step back from the headlines as the Western Sydney Wanderers’ triumph in the Asian Champions League Final stole all the headlines. The historic win proved to be yet another massive boost for the game in this country.

Losers
It’s always tough to lose a final, especially one at home, but none of this justifies the behaviour of some of the Al-Hilal players after losing the match. The actions of Nasser Al-Shamrani’ were disgraceful. Head-butting, spitting and fighting are not words you want associated with a moment of such significance but unfortunately this is the case due to the sour grapes of Al-Shamrani.

In addition, the use of lasers pointed at Ante Covic during the match and Al-Hilal demanding an official investigation into the officiating of the final goes to show a total lack of respect for not only the Wanderers, but for the ACL itself.

Closer to home, Melbourne City had another week to forget as Adelaide United inflicted another loss to City as David Villa said adiós to Australia. With only two points from the first four rounds, City could not have endured a much worse start to the season. Due to other teams’ poor starts, two points has been enough to lift them to seventh, but it seems hard to believe things will get much better for City with the World Cup winner leaving our shores. Goals are a major source of concern for City with only five from four matches; two of which came from Villa.

Winners
To commemorate the wonderful achievement of Western Sydney, this week’s winners section will have a strong Wanderers theme to it.

Despite being only three years old, the club has won the biggest club tournament in Asia, a feat no other Australian team has been able to achieve. Adelaide United made it to the final in 2008 but were blown out of the water by Japanese outfit Gamba Osaka 5-0. For the duration of their campaign, the Wanderers seemed up against it; from being 3-1 down on aggregate in the round of 16 to facing clubs with riches the Wanderers can only dream of, the Wanderers continually defied the odds.

The only disappointing factor for the Wanderers would have been that the final match was away from home. Due to the distance and strict laws of Saudi Arabia, only 14 fans were present at the final; however, this was made up for when the Wanderers returned to thousands of cheering fans at the airport back in Australia.

The man of the moment for the Wanderers is goalkeeper Ante Covic. The shot stopper had a remarkable ACL tournament, making countless crucial saves to keep the Wanderers alive. Covic put in a Herculean effort, keeping a clean sheet in both the final matches. In fact, the last time the Wanderers conceded was in the second leg of the quarter final, meaning the Wanderers are close to going 400 minutes without letting in a goal. Covic’s efforts in this ACL campaign will be the stuff of Wanderers folklore for years to come.

Speaking of folklore, the man who orchestrated all of this success: Tony Popovic. Popovic took over the Wanderers on day one, following his apprenticeship as first team coach at Crystal Palace. Since then, he has taken the Wanderers from zero to hero in a blink of an eye. In just three years, the Wanderers have contested two A-League finals and now won the Asian Champions League. Not even Popovic could have dreamed of such a start back in 2012.

While he has had talented players at his disposal, it is undoubtedly Popovic who has been the biggest factor in their success. Unfortunately for the A-League and the Wanderers, it seems inevitable that he will soon receive an offer to manage overseas that is too good to refuse.

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