Stick with Wanderers they will come good

HE MIGHT have only been playing mind games, but Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold was spot on when he said before the Sydney derby that Western Sydney Wanderers players were not focused solely on Saturday night's game.

It is wholly understandable that the likes of Mark Bridge, Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Ante Covic would have one eye on this Saturday night's Asian Champions League final first leg at Pirtek Stadium against Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal.

Obviously throwing away a 2-0 lead to lose the game 3-2 was not an ideal preparation, but it was a derby and the Wanderers were not helped by the sending off of Brazilian Vito Saba, who at the time of his dismissal was probably his team's best player.

The derby defeat was the second straight loss to start the A-League season for Tony Popovic's team which sits rooted to the bottom of the ladder after conceding seven goals in those two matches.

But I would not be jumping off the Wanderers' band wagon just yet as I am sure Popovic can turn things around.

Obviously Saba's sending off changed things in the derby.

You would have to say that without that red card Western Sydney would have gone on to win the game, and there were another couple of refereeing decisions which went Sydney's way too.

I am convinced that the poor start to the season is just a blip for the Wanderers and they will start turning things around sooner rather than later.

I don't think anyone can under-estimate just how important the Asian Champions League final is for Australian football.

Adelaide United reached the final in 2008 and was thumped by Japanese team Gamba Osaka 5-0 over the two legs.

That was an achievement for the Reds, but for Wanderers to reach the final after being founded only two years ago, is nothing short of unbelievable, and that is why the game is so important to this country.

Popovic summed it up well when speaking about just what it means.

"This is fantastic for Australian football," Popovic said.

"We have the Asian Cup coming here in January, it will give everyone a boost. The code here in Australia is growing even without this success.

"But we hope now that this helps put Australian football even further on the world map.

"Nights like this can only enhance our reputation for football in this country."

Let's hope for everyone's sake Western Sydney can get out of its temporary form slump and do Australia proud.



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