Hyundai A-League transfer targets – Shannon Cole

Shannon Cole: His opportunities were limited in the past two seasons at Western Sydney, but he could still more than do a job at this level.

Source  :  Football Federation Australia

Tony Popovic says lengthy injury list has killed any chance of Wanderers fightback

March 29, 2015

Sebastian Hassett

Football reporter

Losing cause: Labinot Haliti of the Wanderers controls the ball against Josh Risdon of the Glory.

Losing cause: Labinot Haliti of the Wanderers controls the ball against Josh Risdon of the Glory. Photo: Getty Images

Dismayed Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic has never lost faith in his players but admits their crippling injury list is making it almost impossible to put together successive wins.

Buoyed after their 4-1 thumping of Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium last Wednesday, Popovic confidently took his side to Western Australia for Saturday night’s clash with Perth Glory, where they they took an early lead but were ultimately beaten 3-2.

Josh Risdon’s late winner halted any momentum the Wanderers might have gained from scrambling a draw out west and Popovic was crestfallen as he contemplated the challenge of managing a squad missing several of its biggest names.

Shannon Cole, Brendan Hamill, Mateo Poljak, Brendon Santalab, Matthew Spiranovic, Mark Bridge, Nick Ward and Golgol Mebrahtu are all out injured while Tomi Juric and Jaushua Sotirio have missed the past week because of international duty. Only a few may be available for next Friday’s clash with Melbourne City at Parramatta.

“We’ll do it the best we can but at the moment we don’t have any choice. We have one or two young boys, 17-year-olds, sitting at home who are fit. Apart from that, no one is fit. The group that’s here is the group that’s available,” Popovic said.

“Hopefully, we’ll get a few more bodies back in the next week or so. That will certainly help us and we want to finish the season strongly. We want to keep playing the way we are and trying to get some more reward for the good play. We really came [to Perth] with a purpose to win. I thought we showed that in the way we played and the manner of our performance but unfortunately we go home with nothing.”

While Popovic blames the club’s excessive workload for so many of his players breaking down, he maintains he wouldn’t trade the past year for anything.

“Everyone gets injuries – it happens. We know why they’ve come and we’ve got to take responsibility in certain things that we can do better. A lot of it was taken out of our hands,” he said. “We missed 50-odd days of training through this pre-season and after the Morocco trip we started playing three games a week, hence the players didn’t get a chance to get the conditioning that you get from October until the end of February when the Asian Champions League starts.

“But next year, I wish the problem again. I wish we had three games per week all season again and to see if we could deal with it better. Unfortunately, we won’t be in the ACL next year so we’ll try and make the most of it this time and next year, so we’ll try to make the most of it this time.”

Popovic should have access to Juric and Sotirio if they come home unscathed from Europe and Asia respectively, with Bridge some chance to be involved.

“[Bridge] is coming back from a pelvic groin complaint. He’s done some running this week on his own, so if he can join in this week, he may be an option for games coming up,” Popovic said. “I’m not sure [who else can come back]. We hope there’s some but none of them have done any training, so we’ll see with the group next week if a few players can join in training. There might be some available for Friday or next Tuesday ACL game [against FC Seoul].”

Popovic lamented the number of squandered opportunities against Perth, saying that he felt the points were within his team’s grasp had they been sharper around goal.

“We created some great opportunities and at 1-1, we pretty much got two one-on-ones with the keeper. On Wednesday night they went in and we scored those,” he said. “You can see we’re creating chance after chance and every time we’re in the front third we look dangerous. But we got punished.

“The overall result is tough to take, but I thought we played very well away from home again, as we did on Wednesday night. The difference was we got punished for set plays and they scored a wonderful goal at the end. We had some young boys out there. We knew [Perth] would be a threat at set plays and we didn’t deal with that very well.”

 

Source : The Canberra Times

‘We’re as frustrated as you are’: Wanderers’ Shannon Cole understands fan anger

January 2, 2015 – 7:09PM

Sebastian Hassett

Football reporter

Calming influence: Shannon Cole is directed by security away from fans after the match against Central Coast Mariners.

Calming influence: Shannon Cole is directed by security away from fans after the match against Central Coast Mariners.

Western Sydney Wanderers defender Shannon Cole says he understands why his club’s fans are so upset – and that he actually knew the supporter who appeared to seek a physical altercation after Thursday night’s nil-all draw with Central Coast Mariners at Parramatta Stadium.

The ugly scene unfolded when the Wanderers players went over to applaud their fans following another disappointing result, an outcome that extends their winless A-League run way back to last season’s grand final on May 3.

But as Cole made his way over to the main fan group, the Red and Black Bloc, one boisterous supporter tried to jump the fence to confront the defender, with the man held back by security as Cole too was led away.

“There was just a couple of people questioning the players’ efforts. I just wanted to go over and chat with them – I didn’t want to start an argument or anything. I just wanted to remind them that the boys are putting in day-in, day-out at training and on the field on game day and that we’ll get through this together, as a team and a club,” Cole told Fairfax Media on Friday. “The majority of people were telling us they would stick by us no matter what, that we’re all united, and that’s what we want.

“That’s why I wanted to go and talk to those few who weren’t saying that. But I understand their frustration. It’s not that they shouldn’t be upset, and I told them that we’re as frustrated as you are. The fact they were really targeting the players for a supposed lack of effort – I just didn’t think that was fair.”

Although the Wanderers haven’t been playing badly, they’ve failed to convert the myriad opportunities that have come their way in recent times – domestically at least – and the support of the fans is finally showing signs of cracking, despite winning the Asian Champions League only two months ago.

Before kick-off, the Red and Black Bloc held up a banner that read: “Fight like your fans”, indicating a perceived lack of effort on behalf of the players.

In relation to his exchange with the volatile supporter, Cole said the incident probably looked worse on television than it actually was and that he never felt threatened.

“I want to stress that the overwhelming majority were very supportive of us and they understand that it’s a tough run for the players to go through as well. Most of the people appreciated that,” he said. “It was mostly positive to be honest. Just because a few people were behaving aggressively probably made it look worse than it was.

“That fan [who attempted to jump the fence], he’s fine – I’ve spoken to him before. He was just a bit upset. It definitely wasn’t as though we were going to fight or anything. It was probably because there was security between us and he wanted to get a bit closer and say his piece.”

The Wanderers are hopeful the incident might even be the catalyst to spark a turnaround in form as they seek to make an improbable charge towards the finals.

“As players, we were just gutted to go another week without a win,” Cole said. “After the team went over to the RBB, we actually came away feeling together and positive. We’ve got Melbourne Victory at home on Tuesday – we all know how good they are playing at the moment – and we now need our fans to get behind us if we’re to get the result we all want.”

 

Source :^The Canberra Times

Real Madrid semifinal against Cruz Azul moved amid fears for player safety

December 15, 2014 – 9:21AM

Sebastian Hassett

MAKING A SPLASH: Western Sydney's Shannon Cole battles the conditions in Rabat.

MAKING A SPLASH: Western Sydney’s Shannon Cole battles the conditions in Rabat. Photo: AP

Red-faced FIFA officials have angered the Western Sydney Wanderers after they decided to shift Wednesday morning’s (NZ time) semifinal between Real Madrid and Cruz Azul away from the Moroccan capital of Rabat amid fears for the players safety.

The decision was only made after the Wanderers’ 3-1 extra time defeat to the Mexican side at Rabat’s Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in a match that should never have been allowed to go ahead.

So drenched was the field for the quarterfinal that the match was derided by Wanderers’ players as “farcical”, with most players and staff canvassed believing the match should have been delayed until the rain subsided or postponed entirely.

Wanderers coach Tony Popovic had already called the surface “poor” the day before the match when it was dry – before labelling it “appalling” after the game was finished.

Photos of the arena taken by Fairfax Media the day after the match show that officials were desperately trying to recover the quality of the playing surface by covering it with a huge tarp.

While some players joked that the match would never have gone ahead if it was Real Madrid playing in the match, those candid remarks have since been realised.

“I don’t know what the criteria is from FIFA, but it’s questionable whether if Real Madrid were playing the game would have continued,” said Wanderers defender Matthew Spiranovic.

“It was the same for both teams, but I don’t think I’ve played in conditions as bad as that in my whole career. It was dangerous.”

Italian midfielder Iacopo La Rocca agreed it was completely unacceptable for the match to proceed, saying it was the worst he’d experienced in his decade-long professional career.

“You don’t expect something like this in the Club World Cup,” he said. “The pitch was so bad, I’ve never played on anything as bad as that – at the Club World Cup, this just can’t happen. They even played another game before ours. How can that be possible?

Just two days before the game was due to kick-off, FIFA released a statement confirming they had shifted the Spanish side’s match with the North American champions to Marrakech, where the rest of the tournament’s matches are due to be played.

That’s presented a logistical nightmare for players, staff, fans, media and officials, with Marrakech over 300 kilometres away from the national capital.

Despite the bizarre scenes – a far cry from the slick operation of most FIFA tournaments – the Wanderers would still dearly love to be playing the relocated semifinal.

Instead, they’re playing a day later in the fifth-placed play-off in a match against African champions, ES Setif. The Algerian side will also be licking their wounds after they were beaten 1-0 by Auckland City in the tournament’s biggest shock so far.

La Rocca, who scored the goal which gave the Wanderers hope of that dream date with the Galácticos, said his brilliant strike was levelled out by the disappointment of the defeat.

“I’m happy about the goal, but I’m not happy about how the game finished because I think we deserved something more,” he said.

“Now we can’t do anything as the game is finished – and the reality is we won’t get to play against Real Madrid.”

But La Rocca said the players had too much pride to throw away their match against Setif, saying they wanted to leave the tournament on a high.

“The mood isn’t good but we know we are a strong team and we have to concentrate on the next game,” he said.

“We will be motivated because it is the Club World Cup. We get another chance to play in this tournament, and who knows if we’ll ever get the chance again. That’s why we will be motivated for sure.”

 

Source : The Canberra Times

Western Sydney Wanderers defender Shannon Cole says conceding late penalty “makes you sick”

December 14, 2014 – 1:46PM

Sebastian Hassett

Going in hard: The Wanderers' Shannon Cole battles with Cruz Azul's Mariano Pavone in Rabat.

Going in hard: The Wanderers’ Shannon Cole battles with Cruz Azul’s Mariano Pavone in Rabat. Photo: AP

It might be the tackle that cost the Western Sydney Wanderers $1.2 million and the opportunity to play Real Madrid in a Club World Cup semi-final.

Of course, it would be impossible to blame Wanderers defender Shannon Cole, who was only trying to do his job in the 88th minute when Cruz Azul winger Marco Fabian burst into the box. At the time, the A-League side were leading 1-0 and were within touching distance of advancing to the next stage.

But Cole is already having nightmares about sticking his foot out and seeing Fabian tumble to the floor.

“It was very disappointing. I haven’t seen the penalty but my memory of it was I just tried to get my foot on the ball and just didn’t make contact,” he said. “I didn’t know what it looked like, but it would have been better if I’d just fallen over in the mud and left him to deal with the puddles. It makes you sick to think about it, to be honest.”

Cole said it was enormously deflating to arrive in Morocco with the ambition of putting Australian football on the map and going home without making the final four.

“We had such massive motivation to come here. Yes, Cruz get the reward now to play Real Madrid which is a massive thing we wanted to do, but we just wanted to show how good we are,” he said. “We’ve had horrible results in the A-League, but coming here everyone was so pumped to show the world how good we are.

“It’s not going to be easy to just let this game go, because it’s not just tonight – months and months have led into this, it’s a massive kick in the guts.”

The state of the pitch in Rabat was so bad, according to Cole, that neither side was able to produce anywhere near their best. Any hopes of putting on a show for the 22,153 fans soon drowned as the rain tumbled down all game.

“We never got the opportunity – neither did they to be fair, but all of it was a massive disappointment,” he said. “There was no football played out there, it’s just the easiest thing for FIFA to let the game go on – you see those get called off all the time.”

Despite the result, Cole wants his teammates to lift for the fifth-placed play against Algerian side ES Setif on Thursday morning [AET].

“We have to, for a million different reasons – the main one being we didn’t get a chance to show ourselves today,” he said. “If we want to show the world what we’re capable of in this tournament it has to be in the next game, so that’s what the next few days are all about. We have a strong squad and a lot of boys who will be fresh. There’ll be a lot of boys pumped to show themselves.”

 

Source : The Canberra Times

Expect blood in the water when glorious game renews rivalries

October 4, 2014

Craig Foster

Football columnist

Great run: Shannon Cole scores for the Wanderers in the ACL earlier this week.

Great run: Shannon Cole scores for the Wanderers in the ACL earlier this week. Photo: Brendan Esposito

It’s unlikely there’s ever been such optimism and eagerness, nay fervour, for the beginning of a football season in this country.

If the game’s status is a puzzle decades in the making, rarely can so many pieces have been added in a one-off season to such profoundly positive effect. Every one, a douse of accelerant on a blaze.

A World Cup year. David Villa, a legend coming to your stadium.

Champions: The Roar celebrate their 2014 grand-final victory.

Champions: The Roar celebrate their 2014 grand-final victory. Photo: Getty Images

The FFA Cup extending the calendar and feeding into the deep desire within the game for inclusion and co-operation.

The Western Sydney Wanderers unifying the tribes as everyone gets behind and takes pride from their extraordinary run to the Asian Champions League final and their sale signifying a new valuation benchmark for an A-League club.

The Joeys qualifying for their World Cup. Very positive signs coming from the Young Socceroos heading into qualification later this month. The W-League drawing fantastic crowds, with a new level of football. And the Asian Cup to look forward to mid-season, in January.

Draw a breath, but only momentarily, because next Friday rivalries are renewed, questions are answered, secrets are revealed and the flame is well and truly applied.

Season 10 is going to break crowd records again with so many storylines to follow. Most important, though, is the football itself.

It will be at a new level and every match will be fascinating in itself, a test of thought as much as execution, as the league comes increasingly to be characterised by adaptability and tactical planning, variation and contingencies.

The era of playing one way without adaptation is long gone. Teams are too smart, too well organised, too capable of disrupting one way of playing that other solutions have to be prepared.

This is why the league’s start is so enticing, to assess what these evolved plans are, to see inside the mind of the technical staff as expressed through their team.

What were the main problems they faced and seek to overcome from last season? What elements of their game need progress, and is this expressed through new and different types of players, through more or less experience, speed, technical qualities, the tactical system, in match strategy, greater or less imposition of the opponent, a more open or closed approach?

How many players will be committed to attack and defend? What will we see in set-pieces that can provide an edge or become a debilitating weakness? Who are the best thinkers in all of these areas? Which head coach has put together the most rounded and innovative technical team?

Should we anticipate more or less ball possession across the league, a preponderance of counter-attack and the taking of less risk, or a combination of the two from the majority of teams? Will we see clear philosophical stances from the head coaches, or more adaptation according to the players available and the scenario at hand? Who will grow into the pressure and who will find the burden too great to bear?

What trends from abroad will inculcate into our football and who can find the defining concept that creates a long enough window of surprise to generate success?

Graham Arnold has started brilliantly at Sydney; Josep Gombau has changed his system in Adelaide; Tony Popovic is top-level European quality, leading a growing army from the West; Kevin Muscat has proved himself and offers much with a full pre-season behind him and Besart Berisha leading the charge.

Last season, there was a 50 per cent attrition rate in the coaching ranks, so a fast start is critical to creating momentum, especially for new coaches needing ratification of their ideas and methods in the playing group.

There is going to be plaudits, surprises, heroes, villains, controversy and, at some point, blood in the water as someone sinks below the rest. That is the nature of football, where the strong survive and the weak are culled, which keeps the game progressing.

This coming week is one to enjoy, because there is something wonderful about anticipation and open questions, about this chance to wonder and hope.

But next week hope is no more, as reality shatters delusion.

The A-League is now a harsh, unforgiving, professional environment in which every weakness is exposed, every choice dissected, every comment analysed, every statistic recorded and every moment spent on the edge of glory or disaster.

The prizes are greater, the preparation more thorough, the margins smaller than ever before.

Your league is back, Australia. And as the manifestation of it’s first decade of evolution, as the new campaign succinctly states, it’s beautiful indeed.

Source : The Sydney Morning Herald

Expect blood in the water when glorious game renews rivalries

October 4, 2014 – 6:00PM

Craig Foster

Football columnist

Great run: Shannon Cole scores for the Wanderers in the ACL earlier this week.

Great run: Shannon Cole scores for the Wanderers in the ACL earlier this week. Photo: Brendan Esposito

It’s unlikely there’s ever been such optimism and eagerness, nay fervour, for the beginning of a football season in this country.

If the game’s status is a puzzle decades in the making, rarely can so many pieces have been added in a one-off season to such profoundly positive effect. Every one, a douse of accelerant on a blaze.

A World Cup year. David Villa, a legend coming to your stadium.

The FFA Cup extending the calendar and feeding into the deep desire within the game for inclusion and co-operation.

The Western Sydney Wanderers unifying the tribes as everyone gets behind and takes pride from their extraordinary run to the Asian Champions League final and their sale signifying a new valuation benchmark for an A-League club.

The Joeys qualifying for their World Cup. Very positive signs coming from the Young Socceroos heading into qualification later this month. The W-League drawing fantastic crowds, with a new level of football. And the Asian Cup to look forward to mid-season, in January.

Draw a breath, but only momentarily, because next Friday rivalries are renewed, questions are answered, secrets are revealed and the flame is well and truly applied.

Season 10 is going to break crowd records again with so many storylines to follow. Most important, though, is the football itself.

It will be at a new level and every match will be fascinating in itself, a test of thought as much as execution, as the league comes increasingly to be characterised by adaptability and tactical planning, variation and contingencies.

The era of playing one way without adaptation is long gone. Teams are too smart, too well organised, too capable of disrupting one way of playing that other solutions have to be prepared.

This is why the league’s start is so enticing, to assess what these evolved plans are, to see inside the mind of the technical staff as expressed through their team.

What were the main problems they faced and seek to overcome from last season? What elements of their game need progress, and is this expressed through new and different types of players, through more or less experience, speed, technical qualities, the tactical system, in match strategy, greater or less imposition of the opponent, a more open or closed approach?

How many players will be committed to attack and defend? What will we see in set-pieces that can provide an edge or become a debilitating weakness? Who are the best thinkers in all of these areas? Which head coach has put together the most rounded and innovative technical team?

Should we anticipate more or less ball possession across the league, a preponderance of counter-attack and the taking of less risk, or a combination of the two from the majority of teams? Will we see clear philosophical stances from the head coaches, or more adaptation according to the players available and the scenario at hand? Who will grow into the pressure and who will find the burden too great to bear?

What trends from abroad will inculcate into our football and who can find the defining concept that creates a long enough window of surprise to generate success?

Graham Arnold has started brilliantly at Sydney; Josep Gombau has changed his system in Adelaide; Tony Popovic is top-level European quality, leading a growing army from the West; Kevin Muscat has proved himself and offers much with a full pre-season behind him and Besart Berisha leading the charge.

Last season, there was a 50 per cent attrition rate in the coaching ranks, so a fast start is critical to creating momentum, especially for new coaches needing ratification of their ideas and methods in the playing group.

There is going to be plaudits, surprises, heroes, villains, controversy and, at some point, blood in the water as someone sinks below the rest. That is the nature of football, where the strong survive and the weak are culled, which keeps the game progressing.

This coming week is one to enjoy, because there is something wonderful about anticipation and open questions, about this chance to wonder and hope.

But next week hope is no more, as reality shatters delusion.

The A-League is now a harsh, unforgiving, professional environment in which every weakness is exposed, every choice dissected, every comment analysed, every statistic recorded and every moment spent on the edge of glory or disaster.

The prizes are greater, the preparation more thorough, the margins smaller than ever before.

Your league is back, Australia. And as the manifestation of it’s first decade of evolution, as the new campaign succinctly states, it’s beautiful indeed.

Source : The Sydney Morning Herald

Brilliant Western Sydney Wanderers book their place in Asian Champions League final

October 1, 2014 – 11:41PM

Sebastian Hassett

Football repórter

Wanderers 2 FC Seoul 0 (Agg. 2-0)

The moment: Shannon Cole puts the game beyond reach with a header from Labinot Haliti's cross in the second half.

The moment: Shannon Cole puts the game beyond reach with a header from Labinot Haliti’s cross in the second half. Photo: Brendan Esposito

Of all the remarkable milestones achieved by the Western Sydney Wanderers in their two short years of existence, Wednesday night’s 2-0 semi final win over FC Seoul must surely rank as their biggest.

An early goal to Mateo Poljak, which took a generous deflection, set the platform for the Wanderers to advance, and while Seoul dominated large swathes of the match, they seldom looked capable of grabbing the away goal they desperately needed.

Mark Bridge controls the ball in the middle of the park on Wednesday night.

Mark Bridge controls the ball in the middle of the park on Wednesday night. Photo: Brendan Esposito

Just as the Koreans were looking to increase their assault, the Wanderers – as they are so adept at doing – counter-attacked with venom, and Labinot Haliti’s cross was met perfectly by Shannon Cole to seal the victory.

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At the final whistle, the 18,896 on hand burst into scenes of jubilation, with the result booking the Wanderers’ place in the final of the Asian Champions League.

It is there they will face Saudi Arabian giants Al-Hilal over two legs. The first leg takes place on October 25, most likely at ANZ Stadium. The second leg will be a week later in Riyadh at the King Fahd Stadium, infamous among Australian fans for being the scene of the Socceroos’ 1997 Confederations Cup final massacre, losing 6-0 to Brazil.

Mateo Poljak of the Wanderers celebrates victory.

Western Sydney Wanderers v FC Seoul ACL semi final, second leg

Mateo Poljak of the Wanderers celebrates victory. Photo: Zak Kaczmarek/Getty

Should the Wanderers emerge victorious, they will be the first Australian men’s side, club or country, at any age, to claim silverware in Asia.

They will also qualify for the bounty of the FIFA Club World Cup in December, alongside Spanish giants Real Madrid and Copa Libertadores champions San Lorenzo.

But regardless of what happens in the next two months, all Wanderers’ fans – and all Australian football fans, for that matter – will look back fondly upon the events of Wednesday night.

Perhaps it wasn’t as dominant as Adelaide’s famous 3-0 win over Bunyodkor that booked their place in the 2009 ACL final, but that has never been the Wanderers’ style. This was a game executed exactly how coach Tony Popovic likes it.

Not that anyone will remember in hindsight but the Wanderers were already up against it before kick-off when they revealed first-choice striker Tomi Juric had not recovered from a groin injury. In his place, Brendon Santalab was at the point of attack, Labinot Haliti on the left and Mark Bridge, unusually, as the number 10.

The omission didn’t bother the hosts early on as they went ahead after only four minutes. Poljak let fly with a speculative effort from 30 yards, one that benefited from a kind deflection which left Seoul keeper Lee Woong-Hee stranded.

An early advantage to the hosts and suddenly the question was thrust on the visitors. They now had no choice but to respond and force the issue. To Seoul’s credit, they tried to launch attack after attack.

Yet even though coach Choi Yong-Soo opted to play both star pair Everton Santos and Mauricio Molina – after using them only for the second half in the first leg – the visitors lacked imagination.

It was so repetitive that it was hard to believe Seoul didn’t try anything different. They’d go wide and then whip in a cross that was routinely cleared by one of Brendan Hamill or Nikolai Topor-Stanley, or the midfield support staff who often dropped deep to assist.

Hearts were in mouths when an inswinging corner fell neatly for Kim Jin-Kyu, the defender was only stopped by a desperate lunge from Daniel Mullen. Topor-Stanley had to clear his lines soon after as the Koreans looked for a weakness.

The match had plenty of feeling, too, and physical challenges were frequent. Qatari referee Abdulrahaman Abdou eventually pulled out the yellow card for Mullen’s mistimed tackle on Kim Chi-Woo as the first half-half wound down.

Unperturbed by the rough stuff, and Seoul’s best efforts in attack, the Wanderers sealed the result when Haliti curled in a splendid cross that Cole – suspended for the first leg – smartly converted. Seoul would come again and again as the clock wound down but their efforts were pervaded by predictability and, ultimately, a sense of the inevitable.

There would only be room for the Wanderers on the road to Riyadh.

Source : The Sydney Morning Herald

Wonderful Western Sydney Wanderers into Asian Champions League final!

Mateo Poljak celebrates after scoring the Wanderers' opening goal against FC Seoul.

Mateo Poljak celebrates after scoring the Wanderers’ opening goal against FC Seoul.

Western Sydney Wanderers FC have completed their fairytale run to AFC Champions League final after a 2-0 win over a shell-shocked FC Seoul on Wednesday night.

Goals in either half to Mateo Poljak and the returning Shannon Cole completed the historic 2-0 aggregate semi-final win in front of just under 19,000 fans at a rocking Parramatta Stadium.

It means the fledgling club that is just over two years old have become only the second Australian side to make the continental decider, following on from Adelaide United in 2008.

Tony Popovic’s side will face Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia over two legs in the final, with the first match in Sydney on October 25, followed by the second leg away a week later.

Even without the star striker Tomi Juric, who injured his groin in training on Monday, the Wanderers still had too much firepower for a Seoul outfit that have now gone four ACL games in a row without a goal.

But all that matters very little to the Wanderers, who continue to defy the odds and are now just 180 minutes away from being crowned the kings of Asia.

After a 0-0 stalemate in the first leg it was always going to be a tense night with the first goal going along way to deciding who would win the tie.

And the Wanderers couldn’t have dreamed of a better start as Poljak scored his first ACL goal inside the first three minutes.

Seoul ‘keeper Yu Sanghun punched Shannon Cole’s free-kick right into the path of the Croatian waiting just outside the box.

Poljak showed great control and awareness to keep his first-time volley down, finding its way through a slew of players and into the back of the net to get ‘Wanderland’ jumping.

And the home side should have doubled their lead just four minutes later when Brendon Santalab was sent through by Iacopo La Rocca but his effort bounced just the wrong side of the post.

It took until the half hour mark for Seoul to really get into the contest and their best chance of the half came 12 minutes before the break.

Antony Golec could only clear Kim Chiwoo’s cross into the path of Cha Du-Ri and his deflected shot was headed towards the goal before Brendan Hamill headed it away to safety.

Chasing the goal needed to get them through, the visitors lifted their intensity at the start of the second half but struggled to penetrate the well-structured and at times desperate Wanderers defence.

Cole’s brilliant sliding challenge to block Osmar Barba’s effort epitomized the home side’s commitment.

But as Seoul kept coming, the Wanderer’s got the vital second goal through Cole almost midway through the half.

Labinot Haliti hung up a left-wing cross to the far post with Cole, who missed the first leg through suspension, outmuscling Chiwoo and diverting his header past Sanghun.

The home side were then content to sit back and hold onto their lead, snuffing out any hope of a late Seoul fightback to continue their remarkable run in their debut ACL campaign.

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 2 (Poljak 3, Cole 64)

FC Seoul 0

Crowd: 18,896

 

Source : Football Federation Australia