The NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers got the fairy tale ending they deserved, and the Premier’s Plate, in the final match of the season with a 3-0 victory over Newcastle Jets at Hunter Sports Stadium.
The NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers got the fairy tale ending they deserved, and the Premier-s Plate, in the final match of the season with a 3-0 victory over Newcastle Jets at Hunter Sports Stadium.
Their story is now etched as one of the greatest achievements in Australia-s sporting history - crowned Premiers in their inaugural season.
The Wanderers- stretched their unbeaten run to twelve games after running rampant on Newcastle in fine fashion.
Western Sydney dominated the Newcastle outfit, and crushed their hopes of making the finals series with an early goal in the 6th minute from former Jet Mark Bridge.
His well-timed volley put the Wanderers well and truly on the front foot. He doubled his tally later on in the half, shrugging off young defender Connor Chapman and putting the Wanderers in good stead before the break.
Rocky Visconte capped off the night with a screamer from a short corner for the third in the 79th minute.
Almost 8,000 travelling Wanderers supporters added an abundance of colour and noise to the 22,518 fans who came to watch the season-s final fixture.
Previously, Newcastle defeated the Wanderers 2-1 at Parramatta and Western Sydney defeated the Jets 2-1 at Campbelltown Stadium.
“It was a great way to finish it off today,” said Coach Tony Popovic.
“It was a pressure game for both teams and I am extremely proud of the players.
“There is an amazing belief in this team and the club and it shows.”
Popovic said the game will go down as a stand-out for the season alongside last week-s Sydney Derby performance which he rated because of the resilience shown by the team.
“We go now into the finals with a lot of belief and confidence and we go in as Premiers, that-s a fact - and we go to Asia now,” he said.
“In this country, the Grand Final winners are recognised as Champions and we have to respect that.
“There was a reason why last year Central Coast were given the automatic spot and Brisbane got the half spot.
“Around the world - you come first in the league and you-re a worthy champion.”
Popovic says that is what he will be telling his players.
“They still have a job to do because in this country we celebrate the Grand Final winners and we will do everything we can in two weeks- time to get ourselves into one,” he said.
“It will be special for the players, fans and the whole club.”
This season-s Youth captain Yianni Perkatis started for the Wanderers, replacing Aaron Mooy who was still unavailable for selection.
Kwabena Appiah-Kubi, Rocky Visconte and Jason Trifiro were included in the squad again after commendable performances against cross-city rivals Sydney FC last Saturday.
The Jets made just one change from their squad that drew with Adelaide two weeks ago - Newcastle missing last week-s round against Wellington having already played them earlier in the season.
Marquee striker Emile Heskey returned to the starting line-up alongside Michael Bridges, Adam Taggart and Marko Jesic.
The game started with plenty of fire in the belly - Jets captain Ruben Zadkovich showed his distain when referee Ben Williams called him back for a foul.
It didn-t derail the visitors who found a quick and clever passage to devise the opener - crafted by some former Newcastle players in Tarek Elrich, Labinot Haliti and goal scorer Bridge.
Western Sydney had the majority of momentum after the goal with Newcastle failing to find their groove.
Elrich was on hand again to put Youssouf Hersi in motion, the livewire blistering down the right side and his cross-cum-shot only inches away as Birighitti scrambled across the goal line.
A minute later and it was down the other end with the Jets first real sight on goal - Heskey unable to capitalise off Goodwin-s pace.
The first corner of the night went to the hosts and in the clearance - Goodwin was fouled by Bridge just outside the box.
Newcastle were given a good opportunity to level the score, Jesic lined up for the free kick but drilled it into the tight line of Wanderers defence.
Coming back from the break - both sides lacked the intensity that bubbled through the first 45 minutes, but Western Sydney still looked the goods as they moved the ball around the pitch.
Zadkovich caught the Wanderers out in the 62nd minute and showed a glimpse of how he played against the club last time in Campbelltown when he scored but his effort rolled inches wide of Ante Covic-s goal.
Gary van Egmond-s faith in substitute James Virgili almost paid off when the vibrant youngster skipped past Shannon Cole and took on Covic with his left foot but was denied.
Moments later, Covic was forced to dive to his right and smother a brilliant opportunity from Caravella who was working tirelessly for the Jets.
With more time on the ball going the way to Newcastle - another chance went begging for the hosts.
Adam Taggart managed to glide past Nikolai Topor-Stanley and his stellar shot had Covic beaten but it hit the woodwork in the 71st minute.
With a brace already, Bridge came close to finding his third - a thunderous strike sailed over Birighitti-s bar in the 76th minute.
A last ditch effort from Bridge, made possible by Birighitti coming way off his line to make a clearance, was the evening-s last chance but somehow the goal poacher couldn-t find the back of the net.