With one game left to play in the A-League season, we don’t yet know who the champions will be, but we do know they will be deserving of the title.
The Grand Final will be contested on Sunday afternoon at Suncorp Stadium by the two best sides in the competition: the Brisbane Roar and the Western Sydney Wanderers.
The Roar, coached by Mike Mulvey, have home advantage and will go into the match as favourites, having romped to the Premier’s Plate in dominant fashion. There were a few blips in their campaign, but not many.
The Wanderers did not enjoy such a consistent season, but have shown in the final wash-up that they are the team with the best chance of upsetting Brisbane. Tony Popovic’s side have achieved the astonishing feat of qualifying for a second final in only their second year of existence, meaning 2013/14 has already been a success.
If they are good enough to slay the Roar in ‘The Cauldron’ this weekend, they will be worthy champs.
Here’s how the respective teams got to the final:
Brisbane topped the A-League ladder from Round Two onwards, and never really looked like conceding top spot to any of the chasing pack. From early in the campaign it was clear that the Roar were the competition benchmarks. They played the prettiest football (though Adelaide United could lay claim to matching them at times) and were the most ruthless when it came to winning football matches.
Mulvey’s killer instincts as a manager are the reason his side were able to accumulate so many points on their way to the Premier’s Plate, but also resulted in a few slip-ups along the way, inconsequential as they ultimately were. The Roar will persist with their attacking mindset regardless of the match situation, which can leave them exposed to counter punches.
Brisbane lost three times to the stodgy Newcastle Jets and also fell to wooden spooners Melbourne Heart as well as the Central Coast Mariners after they had secured the premiership; but these results are only worth mentioning because they were the exceptions to a well-executed operation.
There are some hints that the side may have lost some momentum in the later part of the season after being left with three meaningless games before the finals, but they managed to account for the Melbourne Victory in last week’s semi-final to give themselves the chance to complete the job at Suncorp.
Semi Final: 1-0 win over Melbourne Victory
Western Sydney battled on two fronts, so a second-place finish in the A-League is even more impressive when coupled with qualification for the Asian Champions League knock-out phase.
Though such a high table position was never assured in an up-and-down 2013/14, the club always maintained an air of potency, stemming from a combination of a passionate fanbase, Popovic’s surly confidence and the memory of last year’s success.
Even after winless periods, such as the three straight losses suffered in February and March, there was always the feeling that the Wanderers were going to have a major say in the destination of the title.
A convincing win over the Mariners in the semi-final confirmed that notion, and now the Parramatta boys have Brisbane in their sights.
Semi Final: 2-0 win over Central Coast Mariners.
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