Western Sydney Wanderers take Asian Champions League title back to Australia

Western Sydney Wanderers made continental football history on Saturday night, holding Al Hilal to a 0-0 draw at King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh in the second leg of the Asian Champions League final to win 1-0 on aggregate.

Goalkeeper of Western Sydney Wanderers Ante Covic, left, celebrates after winning the Asian Champions League 2014 with a 0-0 draw against Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal in the second leg of the AFC Champions League football final at King Fahad stadium in Riyadh, on November 1, 2014.   AFP / FAYEZ NURELDINE
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Western Sydney Wanderers made continental football history on Saturday night, holding Al Hilal to a 0-0 draw at King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh in the second leg of the Asian Champions League final to win 1-0 on aggregate.

Ante Covic turned in a heroic performance in goal, keeping the heavily favoured Saudis at bay as Western Sydney became the first Australian club to be crowned Asian champions.

Only one other side from Australia’s A-League has reached the Asian Champions League final. Adelaide United played in the 2008 tournament final, only to fall 5-0 on aggregate to Gamba Osaka of Japan.

Victory over Hilal marked a rapid rise to prominence for the club based in Sydney’s western suburbs. Western Sydney were only founded in 2012, yet under the guidance of coach Tony Popovic they won the A-League premiership in their first season of competition and made the A-League Finals in their first two seasons.

After winning a Champions League group containing Kawasaki Frontale, Ulsan Hyundai and Guizhou Renhe, Western Sydney advanced through a testing slate of knockout round ties. They overcame Japanese champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima on away goals after finishing 3-3 on aggregate, edged Champions League holders Guangzhou Evergrande on away goals in the quarter-finals and beat 2013 runners-up FC Seoul 2-0 in the semi-finals.

Al Hilal dominated play in Riyadh but wasted several fantastic chances as the Wanderers held out to complete a remarkable triumph in their debut continental campaign.

Covic repeatedly came to his side’s rescue, dominating in the air and coming up with several crucial saves.

The Wanderers won the first leg in Sydney 1-0 last week despite waves of Al Hilal pressure, with Tomi Juric’s 64th-minute goal at Parramatta Stadium proving to be the difference. Western Sydney will be Asia’s representatives at next month’s Fifa Club World Cup.

Al Ain’s Asamoah Gyan finished as the tournament’s top scorer with 12 goals, two ahead of Hilal’s Nasser Al Shamrani.

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