So another A-League season comes to a close and the Central Coast Mariners have been crowned Champions for season 8. In the end it was a 2-0 win over the Western Sydney Wanderers in front of over 42,000 fans, a fitting finale but not quite the fairytale result that most of us were hoping for.
As a Wanderers Foundation member I have to admit I am gutted after that result. But not all is lost, we still have the title of 2012/13 Premiers, inclusion into next season’s Asian Champions League competition and the respect of sports fans right across the country. Who could have predicted all of that when the Wanderers were thrown together as a club mid last year? Congratulations to everyone at the club for what has been a remarkable season, we couldn’t be prouder of what the club has achieved in such a short period of time!
Being crowned A-League Champions would have been the cherry on top of what was a phenomenal season, but you have to say that the Mariners deserved the win even though the referee did his best to turn his head at every Mariners indiscretion and punish the Wanderers every chance he got. The Mariners were more physical, and at their 4th attempt they finally have a Championship to take home to their fans.
The match itself was fast paced, both teams had their chances, but the difference was that the Mariners took theirs. The referee played his part in the match though and just like last years Grand Final there was plenty of controversy. The Mariners scored a few minutes before half time and looked certain to go into the half time break 1 goal up, however the Wanderers should have been given the chance to equalise when a clear handball in the box by Bojic went unpunished. Fast forward to the second half and Jerome Polenz was punished for his handball, even though it appeared McBreen handled the ball first. To rub salt into the wound, Labinot Haliti was also clearly fouled inside the box, once again by Bojic, however the referee also failed to point to the spot. While the Mariners were clearly the better team on the night, I would much rather everyone be talking about the players performances than how bad the referee was.
Despite the disappointing nature of the loss, Wanderers fans stayed until well after the final whistle with at least 30k still in the stadium for the medals and trophy presentation. The fans have been one of the success stories of the season and make the Wanderers journey this year even more special, I would not be surprised to see Parramatta Stadium sold out each and every week next season.
The RBB were at their best on Sunday afternoon and the 35,000 Wanderers fans that packed out the Stadium didn’t disappoint either, the atmosphere was unbelievable and the full stadium Poznan (apart from Mariners supporters) was attempted again. The Wanderers supporters have shown some “football” critics that they don’t have a clue what they are talking about, as an example experienced football writer Ray Gatt said “When will Football Federation Australia learn?” and “Its expansion program for the A-League has so far been an unmitigated disaster.” He couldn’t have been more wrong with this one, Western Sydney has got behind this team right from the start and next season promises to be even better!
So where to now? Well firstly, the A-League’s representatives for the 2014 AFC Champions League have now been decided, and The Wanderers, Mariners and Melbourne Victory have all qualified based on their final positions on the ladder at the conclusion of round 27. Had the Roar, Glory or Reds had won the Grand Final they would have taken the Victory’s place however it wasn’t to be and the top 3 qualify.
The Mariners actually head off to South Korea less than 24 hours after their Grand Final victory, they take on Suwon in the Group Stages and it’s a must win match for them. They sit in 3rd place in the group with 2 matches remaining and nothing less than a win is good enough for them at this stage. So while the A-League has come to it’s conclusion, the Mariners don’t get a break for another few weeks if they bow out of the group stages, or mid May if they manage to make it to the round of 16.
The Wanderers on the other hand, they have 6 months to prepare for next season and Shinji Ono has vowed that they will go one better next year, after what the Wanderers have done this season is anyone willing to disagree with him?