A capacity crowd at Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd Stadium proved  a formidable stage to defend their 1-0 first leg lead but one that Tony Popovic’s lads were up to in a spirited if not glamorous encounter. 

Tomi Juric’s goal in Parramatta remains the score settler as the Wanderers lift an international trophy in just their third year of existence. 

“We were called a small club yesterday. Today we are the biggest in Asia,” Popovic said.

“It is still a little surreal for me as a coach. I am sure it will hit home in the next few days when we reflect.”

“I am just proud for these players and our club. The first time in the competition, to win it, I think in the future we will really understand how special this run has been,” he added.

“We don’t have the resources or the funds that some of these other teams have but we have something that money can’t buy, the desire to win, the resilience to play for each other and do anything we can to win. No money can buy that.”

Taking nothing away from their triumph, the Wanderers were lucky in some respects, with Al-Hilal feeling justifiable aggrieved after a couple of close penalty calls went against them from the Japanese official. 

The NSW side handled relentless pressure and long periods without the ball admirably though and came out on top where it mattered. 

As is often the case with such a match, it’s the man between the sticks who wins the plaudits and it was very much the case for 39-year-old keeper Ante Covic, who had nothing short of a blinder in goal. 

That was no consolation for the home coach, Laurentiu Reghecampf.

“We had bad luck and we had many chances. We were the best team over the two games,” Reghecampf told reporters.

“If you lose one game when you play bad, you can congratulate the other team, but when you play how we played and they play how they played, we feel very bad.”

Sympathy for the losers wanes though when the conditions in which they played are considered. 

Lasers were shone in Covic’s eyes throughout, increasing at the game went on, while there was a bit of afters to mar the whole occasion somewhat. 

But Wanderers as Asian club champions is about as good as it gets for Aussie football leading into the Asian Cup which is being hosted by Australia early next year. 

Image via Getty