Western Sydney Wanderers win Asian title



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14/11/01  Riyadh - Western Sydney Wanderers became the first Australian side to win the Asian Champions League title after a goalless draw against Saudi giants Al Hilal gave them a 1-0 aggregate win in the final. The Aussie side s victory stunned into silence the 65,000 Al Hilal supporters inside the King Fahd International Stadium, most of whom had turned out in the host team s blue and white colours. The win was a shot in the arm for the Wanderers who came into existence only two years ago and had survived some tough games in the tournament to reach the final. "It is still a little surreal for me. I am sure it will hit home in the next few days when we reflect," said Wanderers coach Tony Popovic. "For me, 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 and how it was to win this title. "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." Al Hilal were clearly the dominant side, but despite getting countless chances they failed to breach the Wanderers defence, with goalkeeper Ante Covic putting in an outstanding performance, producing a series of stunning saves, especially late in the second half. The 39-year-old was in a class all his own, but would consider himself lucky for getting away without the referee calling a penalty following a rough tackle on Salman al-Faraj in the 66th minute. In the 75th minute, he blocked a fine header by Saudi legend Yasser al-Qahtani and five minutes from time saved a powerful shot from Nawaf al-Abed. Saudi Arabia s Al Hilal player Nawaf Al Abed (C) is tackled by Western Sydney Wanderers defender Antony Golec (R) in the second leg of the AFC Champions League football final at King Fahad stadium in Riyadh, on November 1, 2014 The Wanderers were up against a side who are among the most dominant in Asia, having amassed dozens of international and domestic titles during their 57-year history, including a pair of Asian Club Championships in 1991 and 2000. The Sydney club walked away with the trophy despite getting only one clear shot at goal, which was saved Al Hilal by goalkeeper Abdulla al-Sdairy. Al Hilal coach Laurentiu Reghecampf rued the fact his team were not able to make the most of their chances. “We had bad luck and we had many chances. We were the best team over the two games,” the Romanian said. “If you lose one game when you play bad, you can congratulate the other team. But when you play how we played and they play how they played, we feel very bad. “We had many chances to score. Yasser had three chances to score alone and Mohamed al-Shalhoub was also good. "We had a lot of chances but we missed them. If the ball does not come to our strikers they cannot score and that’s why we have to find a balance between attack and defence.” The final ended on a sour note when players from both sides squared up after a Saudi player appeared to spit at an Australian opponent.