Can grand final match a grandest semi-final?

Walking out of Pirtek Stadium after that breathtaking A-League semi-final between Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar, Frank Lowy said to me that in his life he has never seen anything like it.

Djite Topor-Stanley

Adelaide United striker Bruce Djite and Wanderers skipper Nikolai Topor-Stanley are sure to be in close quarters come Sunday Source: Getty Images

That’s a big call from the 85-year old who first fell in love with football as a child growing up in central Europe and has seen a number of football matches in his time.

It was indeed the most memorable of games showcasing football’s remarkable capacity to provide live, unscripted theatre.

Prior to the match, being interviewed at a cocktail function, I was asked to provide a prediction. Reluctantly I offered, the Wanderers to win by two. So you can imagine what a goose I felt like after the Wanderers fell three goals behind on 23 minutes.

Yet so dramatic and see-sawing was the ensuing battle that until the final whistle of extra time I felt a two-goal Wanderers win was still possible. It could easily have ended 6-4.

The most critical ingredient of the recipe for such an epic spectacle was the fact that the first three Roar goals came early. The Wanderers still had 67 minutes left to do at least what the Roar did in 23. Had there been just 20 or even 30 minutes left even the Wanderers’ remarkable capacity for self-belief might not have been enough to turn the tables.

Another factor was the rich dose of luck that accompanied Brisbane’s first-half goals: a penalty for a silly hand-ball, an own goal and a deflected shot. This, too, would have led to the belief among the Western Sydney players that such injustices could be corrected. There was certainly time.

All of which means the semi-final will be a hard act to follow in the decider at the Adelaide Oval.  

But the ingredients are right for another epic. Two excellent footballing sides with a pro-active ideology of taking the game to the opposition. Two excellent groups of players, well drilled and cohesive, will be put on show.

One key will be whether Romeo Castelen can repeat his wonderful performance against the Roar. Will Tony Popovic persist with starting Brendan Santalab at the apex of his attack or will it be Mark Bridge moving inside and Dario Vidosic playing on the left? And will this be the game in which the enigmatic Mitch Nichols, given relief despite being cited for misconduct by the FFA, finally dominate?

And for Adelaide the only probable question mark is will Bruce Kamau start or will it be Pablo Sanchez?

There are no injury worries or suspensions for either side. Adelaide will take comfort from having had a longer rest than their opponents while the Wanderers should also be fully recovered from their monumental 120-minute struggle a week earlier.

One minus for the Wanderers will be not having 20,000 of their own supporters chanting and singing themselves hoarse in encouragement.

How much of an impact, one wonders, will that have?

One thing is for sure. It will be a game easy on the eye.

Recently I went to see a cinema screening of the documentary on FC Barcelona titled Barca Dreams, which opened in Sydney as part of the Spanish Film Festival. Addressing the audience I spoke of how the modern Barcelona and their methods have changed football forever and how their influence has reached all parts of the globe, including Australia.

Now we have a Grand Final in the A-League in which both teams are driven by the Barcelona philosophy and technical ideology.

A few years ago we had just one such team in the league, Brisbane Roar. Now we have several. And two of them have reached the championship decider.

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4 min read
Published 29 April 2016 at 9:09am
By Les Murray
Source: SBS