Adelaide beats Western Sydney 3-1 in A-League final
ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) — Substitute Pablo Sanchez scored in the last minute to clinch Adelaide United’s 3-1 win over Western Sydney in the grand final of Australian football’s A-League Sunday, giving the Reds their first title and leaving the Wanderers runners-up for the third time in four years.
The goal that secured Adelaide its first championship in the 11-year history of the A-League was Sanchez’s ninth of the season and his seventh off the bench.
It emphasized the huge Spanish influence in Adelaide’s success this season; Isaias Sanchez also scored a brilliant first-half goal from a free kick and the Reds were guided to the title by Guillermo Amor in his first professional coaching role.
Bruce Kamau also scored for Adelaide while Scott Neville scored for Western Sydney in the 58th minute to ramp up the tension in a match watched by 50,000 fans.
Adelaide entered the final as favorite after winning the minor premiership and Premier’s Plate by finishing in first place at the end of the regular season.
Their grand final victory completed one of the greatest comebacks in A-League history: they started the season by losing their first eight matches then lost only once in their next 20 games to clinch first place.
Western Sydney were second when the regular season ended and were attempting to become only the second team after Sydney FC to win the A-League title away from home.
Kamau put Adelaide ahead in the 22nd minute and Isaias made it 2-0 when he curled a brilliant free kick over the wall and into the top-left corner in the 34th minute.
Western Sydney then began to mount one of its characteristic comebacks: it rallied from 3-0 down in last weekend’s semifinal against Brisbane to win 5-4 in extra time.
Neville sparked the potential comeback with his first A-League goal but Adelaide defended stoutly with time running out and Sanchez showed his ability to find late goals when he made the game safe in the 90th minute.
“I’m just so proud of the team today,” said Adelaide captain and veteran goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic. “At 2-0 it seemed quite comfortable and then they scored and put pressure on us.
“Pablo comes on and secures it for us. It’s something I can’t explain. I’ve been at this club a long time and finally got the double but 50,000 South Australians helped us.”
Galekovic said Amor made a huge contribution to the transformation of Adelaide this season. He retained confidence in his players when they were parked at the bottom of the table after eight rounds and steered them to first place.
“He’s an absolute champion,” Galekovic said. “He’s the best coach in Australia and a fantastic person and we’re lucky to have a true legend of the game.”