2014/2015 Round Nine Preview: December 5th-7th

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Central Coast Mariners vs Melbourne Victory (Friday, 5th November 2014, North Sydney Oval)

This match has been overshadowed by the issues facing the Mariners future as well as the controversy of taking another game away from Gosford to North Sydney Oval. Whilst there are intriguing and arguably positive reasons for Mike Charlesworth to take the Mariners into broader markets that are not that far away from their central coast base, there has already been a negative reaction from many of the more rusted on fans. Then there is the hostility shown to the venue from Melbourne Victory’s coach Kevin Muscat, who has already voiced his concern over the potential for injuries to his players on the hard surface.

All this controversy and media huffing and puffing means that assessing the actual possible result is almost a secondary concern. Melbourne will be undoubted favourites even if they do not play their full and best team. The absence of Finkler may cause some problems for Berisha, but in Ben Khalfallah Muscat has a great alternate. Again there may be defensive concerns with the continuing absence of Delpierre however this iteration of the Mariners do not look good enough to take advantage of that issue. Whilst they may be able to maintain a high possession rate against the visitors, going forward and convincingly attacking their opponents with the resulting goals doesn’t seem to be happening for Moss’s team.

Final Verdict: Victory may be discomforted by the venue and the Mariners will want to maintain the same stolid work that has seen them only lose one of their last four games this season. However the visitors should be able to win well. My Prediction: 0-2 Melbourne Victory win

Newcastle Jets vs Wellington Phoenix (Saturday 6th December 2014, Hunter Stadium)

Two of the least fashionable clubs of the A-League meet in this match and it will be most interesting to see what kind of crowd come along to see the home team who are struggling this season, or the visitors who are playing well but are poor purveyors of traveling fans. The Jets have been finding it hard this season, and whilst they have found some degree of stability in the last two rounds with draws against the Wanderers and Mariners there is still no definitive expectation that they can run rampant against any opposition. Flores and Carney are playing well and the switch of Birighitti with Ben Kennedy in goal seems to have corrected some of the defensive woes Phil Stubbins’ team has had.

As for the visitors, even with the departure of goal scoring ace Jeremy Brockie to South Africa there is lots to like up front. McGlinchey, Burns, Bonevacia and Krishna have helped give the Phoenix their best ever start to an A-League season. It would be a foolish person to consider them less than an even chance for reaching the top six in April next year, and Ernie Merrick is getting the best out of a team that is hardly filled with stars.

Final Verdict: Wellington Phoenix may not be the best team away from home in the past, however this season they are looking much better. This should be a win for the visitors, even though the Jets won’t die wondering. My Prediction: 0-1 Wellington Pheonix win

Adelaide United vs Western Sydney Wanderers (Saturday 6th December 2014, Coopers Stadium)

The Reds are at home and have plenty of reason to shine against the last placed Wanderers after their defeat away to their nemesis the Victory last round. Plus, like every club who will be playing the Wanderers this season the added incentive of knocking off the AFC Champions’ League winners must give Gombau’s players another motivation. Adelaide are looking very good this season thanks to the growing depth and cohesion of their team on the field. Up front Djite and Cirio have been scoring goals, Carrusca has been arguably the best playmaker in any club and at the back Elrich and Mabil have been able to switch defence into attack regularly, The Reds will be missing the multi-talented Osama Malik however that shouldn’t be fatal for their chances.

As for the Wanderers, well almost everything that can go wrong with their 2014/15 A-League campaign has indeed gone wrong. They had been improving in their performances against the Mariners, Jets and Sydney FC at home, and whilst the goals weren’t coming in great floods the combination of Rukavytsya, Bridge, Juric and Castelen looked very potent. However on Wednesday night their effort against a Broich-less Brisbane Roar was simply not good enough. There are issues all over the park, particularly in relation to the sub-par returns from two key imports (Saba and Adeleke), and if it wasn’t for the likes of Covic, Topor-Stanley and Hamill the RBB and other fans would be starting to doubt the wisdom of Tony Popovic. Throw in the impending trip to Morocco for the Club World Cup and it is almost as if their success has laid the foundations for their current faults.

Final Verdict: I would love to believe that the Wanderers can come back, confound teh critics and win this week. However I don’t believe they are going to be able to bring away all three points. They may well jag a draw though. My Prediction: 2-1 Adelaide United

Melbourne City vs Brisbane Roar (Sunday 7th December 2014, AAMI Park)

Brisbane played well enough to keep a stuttering Wanderers out of their goal on Wednesday night, however they hardly set the world on fire with their own offensive efforts. Therefore coming down to Melbourne and facing a Melbourne City that was thumped by the Phoenix last round gives them an intriguing challenge, especially as Thomas Broich will again be absent. Defensively City do have problems, and with a core of Heart players in the backs and midfield John Van t’Schip must be hoping the likes of Paartelu and Mooy replicate their efforts from the first match between these two teams this season. In fact the area where the game will be won or lost will be in the midfield; Matt McKay played very well against the Wanderers and Mooy has been possibly the best City player all season so far. If the Roar midfield can get service to Henrique then he will cause problems for the home team. Conversely Williams can punish the City opposition so it could be one of those games that swings on one magic moment from the centre of the pitch. It will be interesting to see if and how Adam Sarota plays for Brisbane; he could be a quality addition to a Brisbane squad that still has some big gaps.

Final Verdict: I don’t think either team is really of a sufficient quality to get a huge win, but of the two Roar look better in defence and have been arguably better across the board even though they have lost more matches than won. My prediction 0-1 Brisbane Roar win

(N.B. as I missed the chance to post before the Sydney FC vs Perth Glory match I will only give a review for that game)

Round Four Preview: Western Sydney Wanderers vs Brisbane Roar (Wednesday 3rd December, Pirtek Stadium)

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If, immediately after last years’ grand final, anyone had suggested that this match would be going ahead with both teams at the foot of the current A-League ladder, in a mid-week match after the Wanderers had won the AFC Champions’ League and were readying for the FIFA Club World Championship, and that the Roar would have sacked Mike Mulvey in the week or so beforehand, they would’ve been labelled as insane. Yet here we are and the Wanderers are last, the Roar eighth, Mulvey is indeed gone, the home team is readying for a possible match in Morocco against Real Madrid and Broich is undergoing surgery for an ankle injury. In other words it is a rather bizarre situation that both clubs are in, and whoever can best emerge out of the chaotic circumstances should climb back up into the top six.

For the visitors the one major bright spot in their situation is that Henriques is scoring goals. Aside from that their form, their internal issues post-Mulvey’s sacking, the gaps in their roster due to Berisha and Franjic moving on, the injuries to Broich and Theo all indicates they are on a downward path. Their effort against Perth last round was barely satisfactory, and was saved near the death by the Brazilian striker. There is potential for Adam Sarota to play however his match fitness will be almost zero. New Roar coach Frans Thijssen has also been a very subdued addition to the visitors, and it is hard to see him knowing exactly how to deal with all the problems Brisbane face on and off the park.

As for the Wanderers, they must be very confident of picking up all three points tonight. There is every chance that recently crowned AFC coach of the Year Tony Popovic will wave his rotation wand again, and whilst Saba didn;t start against Sydney FC last weekend he may well begin the game against the Roar. Labinot Haliti might figure instead of Rukavytsya, and it will be interesting to see if Adeleke starts. The away game to Adelaide this weekend and the Club World Championship will be on Popa’s mind, and he may give some of his usual starters a break. If so the challenge will be particularly in the midfield, where Poljak, possibly Bridge, Saba and La Rocca will need to own that space. Up front Tomi Juric will be the main man for goals, however he will need someone like Castelen or another team mate to help out more. Last match against Sydney FC there were issues with the Wanderers’ willingness to shoot, as well as their organisation in the box, and this needs to improve.No doubt the RBB will again be driving their club on with all the home support they can.

Final Verdict: The Wanderers should win, but the Roar will be very keen to stop them. My Prediction: 2-0 Western Sydney Wanderers

Round Three Preview: Western Sydney Wanderers vs Central Coast Mariners (Wednesday 19th November, Pirtek Stadium)

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After what seems to have been an eternity the Wanderers finally get to play their first 2014/15 A-League season home game, and it has come at a most important time for the club. With the burden of having to deal with some inordinate and as Ante Covic has suggested unreasonable travel expectations, brought about through a combination of AFC Champions’ League matches and away games in Wellington and Perth, the squad has struggled to be competitive. Throw in some significant changes in personnel and a lack of match fitness from important new acquisitions such as Rukavytsya, Adeleke, Castelen and Saba and it is almost bearable to see the red and black sitting at the bottom of the table. However there is a need for all three points from this match, and the players, coach and fans will all find anything other than a win an extremely bitter pill. The absence of Topor-Stanley is an issue (away on national team duties) and Brendon Santalab’s injury is more damaging to the squad’s fabric than some may be willing to let on. Defensively the dropping of Golec and Mullen and the return of Spiranovic may be helpful, and a front three of Ruka, Juric and Castelen with Saba as the distributing CAM is very tasty.

As for the Mariners they have been almost as bad at the Wanderers, though last week’s draw with Melbourne City has certainly brought back some positive vibes to Moss’s squad. Defensively not as solid as previously seasons and with no one like past players Brockie, Ibini or McGlinchey to form an incisive strike force up front (though Duke has had pretensions) there has been few goals scored by the away team and more than enough let in. Storm Roux and Matt Simon are out with All-White and injury issues respectively. Then there is the small matter of whether Malick Mane is staying, going, or hovering around the squad and helping to fuel discontent. It will be down to the likes of Montgomery, Hutchinson, Rose and Bosnar to do what they can to try and rescue an average campaign start for the Mariners in this match.

Final Verdict: The Wanderers are in desperate straits vis-a-vis the 2014/15 season and they must win. The benefit of having almost an entirely full, fit and hopefully mostly rested starting XI back at Wanderland must please Tony Popovic, and there is lots of quality in their line up. The Mariners always do well against the Wanderers however and will fight very hard. My Prediction: 2-1 Western Sydney Wanderers win

2014/2015 Round Six Preview: November 14th – 16th

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Newcastle United vs Brisbane Roar (Hunter Stadium, Friday November 14th 2014)

Considering neither club is sitting on a shitload of points at the moment this match at the Jet’s home ground is another crucial one for both squads and their respective coaches. Brisbane have been a tad unlucky in their four losses so far this season however there are deficiencies and problems that are all too apparent (e.g. the lack of a replacement for Berisha, Young’s struggles in goal, verbal stoushes on the pitch). Throw in the travel away from home, the absence of Matt McKay, and the continuing non-appearance of Adam Sarota and Michael Theo then this is not the best qualified Roar squad aiming to win on the road.

Having said that Newcastle are only a few increments above the Roar in terms of points and player quality. There 2-2 draw against Melbourne Victory was a good match and showed that now they are off the road Phil Stubbins can possibly jag some results. There are some players who should be doing much better, including Flores and arguably Neumann. Griffiths and Jaliens have been well performed and David Carney has started to find his feet. It will be interesting to see if Madaschi and Celeski get much game time as they are welcome additions to a relatively threadbare line up.

Final Verdict: Brisbane are still a team to be respected if not feared, and it will be important for Mike Mulvey that the likes of Broich, Stefanutto, North and Brattan start achieving more. The Jets are at home and do have a better recent form run, but it will be hard for them to defeat last season’s champions. My Prediction: 2-2 Draw

Adelaide United vs Wellington Phoenix (Coopers Stadium, 15th November 2014)

Whilst Adelaide may be a little fatigued due to their midweek FFA Cup exertions they have the luxury of having played at home and a squad that is almost at its best. Unfortunately they are missing Bruce Djite, and in his absence it’ll be important for Cirio, Carrusca and Isaias to add potency in front of goal. Perhaps the most pleasing aspect for coach Gombau is the form of Young Socceroo Awer Mabil and recently re-signed journeyman Tarek Elrich. Both of these players at the opposite ends of their careers are coming into some really good performances for the Reds.

This season’s iteration of the Phoenix is no easy beat, and their position on the ladder and their preceding form  of wins at home and away indicates they are a very strong prospect for a final’s challenge. Burns and Bonevacia have been impressive however other key players such as Louis Fenton, Michael McGlinchey and Jeremy Brockie will be absent due to injury and/or international duties. Travelling away from Wellington is an additional challenge for Ernie Merrick’s team, and whilst they are probably more rested they are still stretched in terms of quality personnel.

Final Verdict: I can’t see anything but an Adelaide win, even without their key striker Bruce Djite. The mixture of style and substance from the Reds has them higher on the table than their visitors and alongside Perth Glory, Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC they are well ensconced in the pundits’ visions of top four finishers in 2014/15. My Prediction: 2-0 Adelaide United

Sydney FC vs Melbourne Victory (Allianz Stadium, 15th November 2014)

What should be one of the biggest of the so-called ‘Big Blue’ derbies has been diminished by a combination of international representation and injuries impacting both on FC and Victory. The visitors are arguably more impacted by these issues, including Pain, Milligan, Barbarouses, possibly Thompson, and Georgievski all not able to play. Antonis, Gameiro, Janko and Jurman are missing from the home team’s line up, with Antonis’ omission being somewhat controversial after receiving an injury that precluded him from playing for the Socceroos. Importantly for the home team their well-credentialed defensive structure has not been impacted by such problems, and Allianz Stadium is becoming a fortress for Graham Arnold’s squad.

Kevin Muscat still has plenty of quality to breach the walls of the Sky Blues, with Finkler, Khalfallah and Berisha to  give Sydney FC some pause to think whilst Delpierre and Valeri should bolster the midfield and defence for the visitors. The Victory have already shown this season that they can be more than competitive with holes in their side, but it will be a big result if they can nullify the likes of Brosque, Ibini and Dimitrijevic.

Final Verdict: Almost too close to call and I suspect that this is a match that could become a real slug fest. A draw seems the most appropriate result for two teams that are so evenly matched. My Prediction: 1-1 Draw

Perth Glory vs Western Sydney Wanderers (nib Stadium, 15th November 2014)

Perth and Western Sydney are at opposite ends of the table so far in 2014/15, and unlike the last two seasons it’s the old NSL powerhouse who has rediscovered an ability to win and the junior A-League club which is struggling to find the points. Perth have formed a so far successful approach to this season by combining some quality juniors (most notably Jamie Maclaren and Daniel de Silva) with some good acquisitions (Andy Keough, Mitch Nichols, Youssouf Hersi). Throw in some veterans from 2013/14 who have found a new lease of life, especially Nebojsa Marinkovic, and this is a formidable opponent for the Wanderers.

However Perth will be missing Nichols, Maclaren and Woodcock, and they have played a midweek FFA Cup match away from home. The Wanderers are also still dealing with issues from being on the road, and then there is the obvious burden of coming out of their tumultuous AFC Champions’ League matches. They have lost to Socceroos duty Nikolai Topor-Stanley and there are stories that Covic, Spiranovic, Castelen, Juric and Adeleke will not be going to Perth. Obviously being without a win there is a lot of pressure on Popovic’s squad, and it will be interesting to see how Rukavytsya and Saba particularly deal with the burden of being key creative players in the opposition half. It’s in defence however that the Wanderers will need to lift, and if Mullen, Golec, Hamill and Cole are at the back they have to be better than past efforts.

Final Verdict: I refuse to tip against the Wanderers but this will be another hard task for a team that is feeling all the effects of putting so much effort and getting so much success out of the ACL. Perth at home with the personnel still available are going to be favourites. My Predictions: 1-1 Draw

Melbourne City vs Central Coast Mariners (AAMI Park, 16th November 2014)

The Mariners will be looking for some redemption for not just the loss to Adelaide in the midweek FFA Cup semi, but also to try and reverse the run of disappointing results they have had since their first round win over the Jets. Not as badly hurt by the problems of international duties or injury (though Matt Simon and Storm Roux will be missed) as City, they are still underdogs on the road against a team that clobbered the Roar last week.

Melbourne City have perhaps got out from under the shadow of the David Villa cameo, and even with some serious absences (Mooy, Koren, Germano, Chapman) there is a potential match winning line up under van t’Schip’s guidance ready to take on the visiting Mariners. Paartalu is finally showing value as an acquisition, Williams’ radar is finding guidance and Damien Duff is still one of the better overseas signings for any club this season. There may not be the support from the home fans at AAMI Park as seen in earlier matches, however there will be an advantage being back in Melbourne and not having to deal with a midweek match like the visitors have to.

Final Verdict: The Mariners are not quite at sixes and sevens, however they are looking vulnerable. City are also far from perfect yet they have more points than Central Coast and look more capable of winning in any match let alone this one. My Prediction: 2-1 Melbourne City win

Ante of Arabia (or How The Wanderers Feared None, Conquered All and Returned From Riyadh With The ACL Title)

I’ve often talked to friends and family about the moments in my life when I experienced true bliss, when happiness was not just a transitory feeling but a pure state of being. Unlike many I’ve not couched such experiences in the traditional contexts of births and marriages, but instead focused on sport. Perhaps that demonstrates a certain shallowness or a paucity of exposure to meaningful life matters, however they are my experiences and I will always treasure them.

The first was back in the early hours of September 24th, 1993. Before there was an A-League, in the days when football was more a dormant like than an all-consuming love, I was engrossed in the Olympics. Before I knew of the legendary 1974 Socceroos I had been bitten by the bug of the five ringed circus thanks to watching Munich 72 on a black and white television in a caravan in East Maitland. So, when Sydney’s bid for the 2000 Olympics came to the all important juncture, aiming to get the nod by the IOC over Beijing, Manchester and other bidding cities, well it was one of the moments in my life. At the ungodly hour local time that the late and not much lamented Juan Antonio Samaranch said “….And the winner is Sydney, Australia”, well there and then I had the first defining moment of ecstacy in my life thanks to sport.

Come forward over 12 years and it was Germany 2006 qualification time for the Socceroos. Another November date with destiny, having gone through the heart ache of watching the national side fail at every attempt to repeat the wondrous achievements of Rale Rasic’s 1974 heroes, it was a long and tortuous experience having to watch the Socceroos triumph over the Uruguyans. Thirty-two years of sadness, of frustration, of disappointment melted away under the floodlight glare of legends like Schwarzer, Bresciano, Kewell, Viduka, Alosi and that man Tony Popovic, and once more I was taken to another plane of happiness. Giddy with the penalty shoot-out win and a few good measures of kartoffelschnapps all I could do was euphorically celebrate the erasing of all those disappointing years, all those bad memories, all those frustrated Socceroo campaigns. I had another moment in my life that was filtered through sport and epic success to memorize.

So last morning, as my beloved Western Sydney Wanderers battled through possibly the sternest challenge ever faced by any club of any code in this country to win not just a famous victory, but one with global implications…well let me say that I am on a high equal to the intoxicating joy as I experienced back in 1993 and 2005, if not higher.

Popa and the Wanderers Jubilant in Riyadh

I had been debating whether to go to the live site in Parramatta’s Centenary Square, as I’m not as young as I once was and the stress of what was going to be an all-nighter was something better dealt with in my old university days 30 years ago. Throw in the hassle of heading into Parramatta, the possibility of a loss souring the mood post-match (as was experienced after the 2012/13 grand final), and being a lazy old prick, well my mind was not made up until my beloved said the right words; “You’ll regret it if you don’t go”. A few additional incentives from friends online who were going to be at the first (and arguably best) home of the RBB (i.e. The Woolpack Hotel), I decided to let go of my middle aged doubts and get on board the live site experience.

The hours leading into the match were profitably spent drinking a few ales, chatting with some of my aforementioned keyboard comrades at the Woolie, contemplating the imposing date with destiny for the Wanderers over in Saudi, and trying not to feel sick in the stomach with nerves. If there is one thing that really helps with the trials of being a Wanderers fan it’s the brotherhood and sisterhood of fellow fans. I know this might sound a bit hyperbolic, a bit over the top, however I can honestly say I’ve not felt a greater and more enjoyable sense of camaraderie, dare I say family, than with those who share my passion for the Western Sydney Wanderers, since at least my time as an undergraduate up at UNE. The range of ages, of ethnicity, of home roots, of opinions matters not a jot when we get together. Over a few cleansing ales or steins we can relate without all the BS our non-Wanderers lives could bring to bear on our communication. Young or old, male or female, bogan Anglo or effnick wog I am part of this amazing community of western Sydney people, all sharing the love of the Wanderers, and it is a wonderful experience made even more potent at 3.30am before an AFC Champions’ League final.

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Centenary Square, Parramatta…3.40am before the ACL Final

With a few of my comrades as company it was a short walk over to Centenary square, and within minutes it was a sea of fellow Wanderers faithful in red and black, or perhaps a sprinkling of white and red away strips. The mood was one of nervous energy, coupled with that unmistakable air of people trying to either stay awake or wake up. It wasn’t the most well organised or comfortable of set-ups, and the three mobile big screen displays had their issues. However as my beloved said, I would have regretted not being there to share the whole experience. Throw in the presence of members of the RBB and La Banda, a bracing cup of coffee and a collapsible camp chair I was about as ready as I could be for the big game.

Now when it came to the match itself, first off I note with approval that Tony Popovic followed his own mind and ignored my manifesto on how to beat Al Hilal. It was a little surprising to see Kwabena Appiah run on as the RAM and Shannon Cole take over from Daniel Mullen as RB, however as is the mantra of all who follow the Wanderers, in Popa we/I trust. The early moments of the game were positive for the away team, and it looked like perhaps the match would be more even than that played last week at Wanderland. Then the tempo changed, and it was as if Al Hilal were always on the attack and the Wanderers hunkered down for an assault of biblical magnitude. Time and time again the home forwards surged forwards, putting the back five of Cole, Hamill, Topor-Stanley, Golec and Covic under pressure. The referee didn’t aid matters with his seemingly endless awarding of free kicks to Al Hilal, with every contested meeting between players in red and black versus those in blue ending in the home team’s favour. Fast and creative, the Saudi team were playing as if they were chasing the win, and all I could feel as I watched was a gnawing worry in my gut, that we would concede and the dream of an Asian title would crumble with an Al Hilal goal.

However as the game went on in its scoreless manner there was that kernel of hope that kept sustaining me. Through every shot from the misfiring Al Hilal strikers, through every controversial decision from the Japanese referee, through every last minute clearance from NTS or heroic save from Ante Covic, the seemingly doomed chance of an AFC Champions’ League title stayed alive. Half time brought some respite, and discussing the validity of the claims for a penalty that was denied Al Hilal, and my assertion that Vitor Saba was volatile helped divert some of the tension. There had also been some pyro ignited by certain ultra fans, and to be honest it was something visually engaging yet also a pain in the arse when I began coughing my lungs up. However I was glad of the display in that it gave my racing mind something else to latch on, aside from the nervous trauma of watching the Wanderers under the pump in Riyadh.

The second half was, if at all possible, almost twice as stressful that the preceding one. There was more controversy courtesy of another claim for a penalty for the home team, waved away emphatically by the referee (perhaps suffering from nerves himself after his display in the opening match of the 2014 World Cup between Brazil and Croatia). Tomi, Vitor and Spira each came on as Popa rang in the changes. Unfortunately unlike last Saturday the effect on possession and attacking opportunities were minimal, and there was to be no repeat of the magical goal from Golec and Juric as staged in the Wanderland leg. Play opened up a little and there was one or two minor chances from the Wanderers, however it was mostly one way traffic, all towards the goal guarded by Ante. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, and those last fifteen minutes or so after a confidence building Poznan in Centenary square was simply a festival of Covic’s acrobatic heroics. In the 86th minute his effort at keeping out an almost certain scoring shot was arguably the best ever save from any Australian goalkeeper in any game ever:

I have seen a lot of good and some great Australian goalies over the years; Jack Riley, Allan Maher, Terry Greedy, Robert Zabica, Mark Bosnich and of course the magisterial Mark Schwartzer, and the last mentioned has a true candidate for save of Australian football’s history with his amazing stop on Zayaleta’s strike from the penalty spot. However the efforts of Covic not just in this match but in others during this AFC Champions’ League campaign are going to be the stuff of legend. Maybe I am succumbing to my own hyperbolic love of the Wanderers, however I would argue that the first statue erected of any player to have worn the red and black at Wanderland must be of Ante. On a slightly less excited note, surely he needs to be considered as at least the no.2 goalie in Ange Postecoglu’s AFC Cup Socceroos squad.

Back to the game itself, those last few minutes and particularly the excoriating stretched moments of injury time were simply agony. It was almost unbearable, yet fascinating and joyful as the game’s duration came closer and closer to ending. Then, at the 96th minute, came release:

It was a moment of pure elation, or unadulterated joy. In a paroxysm of happiness mixed in with disbelief I hugged my nearest red and black adorned compatriot, then went berko with glee. Everyone around me, from all the suburbs of western Sydney and beyond, Anglo or wog, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Muslim, rich or poor, man or woman…we all were united in euphoria.

More Glorious Than Death…victory celebrations in Centenary Square Parramatta as the Wanderers claim the ACL title

In the next hour or so it was all about sharing the happiness, living in the moment, of being with my brothers and sisters who have put our hearts and minds behind the Western Sydney Wanderers. We sang ‘Campiones’, we chanted, we hugged, we danced, we fist-pumped all in true Dino Kresinger style. Tears were shed by some, for others there was the cathartic pleasure of laughing, letting go of the nervous tension that had been all too apparent during the match. Many of us in Centenary Square became angry at the disgusting bad-sportsmanship from the grubby Al Hilal striker Al-Shamrani, whose spitting and head butting was just as vile as Luis Suarez biting incident at Brazil 2014. However our hatred for such a dirty bastard was mollified a little by the fact he and his ineffective and impotent comrades lost what they arrogantly proclaimed as theirs without any concrete justification.

I could describe what happened in Parramatta in more detail but already many aspects are being lost in that forgetfulness you have when extreme happiness creates a memory fog. Plus, I didn’t stay around much longer after the presentation of the trophy was broadcast from Riyadh. The sun was shining and it’d been 24 hours since I’d last slept, plus I wanted to get home to my beloved and share my glee whilst watching whatever I could on TV focused on the Wanderers.

After the rest of the morning and some hours in the afternoon passed in sleep I woke to watch the recording I had of the game. I couldn’t bear to watch the entire match again; it had been far too stressful the first go around. Instead I watched the last few minutes of play and then the celebrations for the boys over in Saudi Arabia. There was one last moment of catharsis, of release, when I saw Vitor Saba cry with joy in the arms of Tony Popovic. I’m not ashamed to say I blubbered a little…nay, a farken lot, watching those scenes from earlier that glorious day. It was the perfect end point for a perfect night and day. I have now got a trifecta of euphoric experiences in my life through the agency of sport, and right now it is the greatest of them all.