The wait for an elusive Grand Final trophy was cruelly extended for the Western Sydney Wanderers as Tony Popovic’s side succumbed to a 3-1 defeat in front of an Adelaide Oval crowd of 50,119.
The trophy looked out of reach when a dominant Adelaide United surged to a 2-0 lead at half-time courtesy of Bruce Kamau’s opener and Isaias’ exceptional free-kick.
Unlikely goal scoring hero Scott Neville could not have picked a grander occasion nor better time to open his Western Sydney account when he restored a glimmer of hope after the break but It couldn’t spur the side on to an equalising goal despite a frenetic late rally from the visitors, with Pablo Sanchez striking at the death to end the Reds’ 13-year wait for championship glory.
Entering their third Grand Final in four seasons, the Wanderers will rue a flat first-half performance that saw Adelaide seize a commanding lead.
And with just one loss in their last twenty, and just eight goals conceded since Round 8 of the regular season, Guillermo Amor’s side were never at risk of implosion, nor could the Wanderers replicate their dramatic comeback from 3-0 down against Brisbane Roar in last Sunday’s semi-final.
The Red & Black fell behind to the second quickest goal in Hyundai A-League Grand Final history.
Kenyan-born winger Bruce Kamau timed his run to perfection to steer the ball beyond Andrew Redmayne after Marcelo Carrusca had broken free down the Wanderers’ right.
A brilliant chance to restore parity fell to Brendon Santalab but the forward could only direct his diving header wide and the Reds doubled their advantage moments after Santalab’s miss through an unstoppable free-kick from Isaias.
Popovic rued both goals with Adelaide’s two strikes coming directly from Wanderers losing unnecessary possession, leaving the Red & Black with a mountain to climb. But they were back in the contest when Scott Neville lashed home a superb effort inside the box after good work from Romeo Castelen and a clever flick from Brendon Santalab.
It was deserved reward for the Wanderers who turned in a valiant second half display. It could have been 2-2 too as first Neville’s cross went just behind two on-rushing attackers in the six-yard box before Topor-Stanley’s header went directly to the keeper.
But it wasn’t meant to be for the Red & Black who were dealt a hammer blow on the cusp of stoppage time when Pablo Sanchez swept home Adelaide’s third.
After three Grand Finals, one Premiership win and one Champions League victory in only four seasons of existence, the Wanderers have a history to be proud of but will have to wait at least one more season for Championship glory.