Football 2 years ago

Second grand final most painful for Popa

  • Second grand final most painful for Popa

    BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 04: Coach Tony Popovic of the Wanderers reacts to the referees decision during the round 22 A-League match between the Brisbane Roar and the Western Sydney Wanderers at Suncorp Stadium on March 4, 2016 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

When Tony Popovic reflects on Western Sydney's two A-League grand final losses, one is a starkly more painful memory.

"The second one hurt a lot," Popovic told AAP.

The Wanderers had already endured one near miss against Central Coast in their debut 2012-13 season, when the grand final heartache continued against Brisbane the very next year.

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In that 2013-14 finale at Suncorp Stadium, Western Sydney took the lead via a Matthew Spiranovic header and dominated much of the contest.

But big-game striker Besart Berisha equalised to push the match into extra-time, when super-sub Henrique struck to seal the silverware and leave Popovic and his team to wonder what might have been.

They were also left to rue a knee injury to skipper Nikolai Topor-Stanley and a golden missed chance to Labinot Haliti.

It's a match Popovic still remembers with a certain amount of torment three days before the Wanderers play a third grand final, this time against Adelaide United.

"The first one (2-0 loss to the Mariners) I felt that on the day we probably weren't good enough to win," he said.

"We had a lot of injuries leading into the final, our preparation wasn't as good and Central Coast were better than us that day.

"The second one hurt because I felt we were the better team.

"A few things changed during the course of the game, but for 70-75 minutes we were so good that day.

"But soon after we get another shot, and hopefully it's third time lucky."

Popovic is high on confidence after the Wanderers turned the tables on Brisbane in last weekend's semi-final, executing a remarkable comeback from 3-0 down to win 5-4 in extra-time.

The coach could sense his players' unrelenting focus as soon as Romeo Castelen scored Western Sydney's opener to kick-start the fightback.

He hopes they can carry the same mentality to Adelaide Oval, where they'll have to break down a Reds outfit that has lost just once in the last 20 games.

"They just keep performing and winning," Popovic said.

"They were the best team in the league, that's why they finished first and that's credit to them.

"But in this country as we've learned from when we won the Premiers Plate in year one, the champions are the grand final winners.

"The champion will be determined on Sunday, and we have a real chance to achieve that."

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