Australia toasts Asian Champions Wanderers

Australia's Western Sydney Wanderers hold the trophy as the celebrate winning their second-leg soccer match of the Asian Champions League final against Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal at King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh Nov 1, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTER
Australia's Western Sydney Wanderers hold the trophy as the celebrate winning their second-leg soccer match of the Asian Champions League final against Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal at King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh Nov 1, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia hailed Western Sydney Wanderers' remarkable rise from new club to AFC Champions League winners in only two years after they became the first side from the country to win the Asian title.

Some 5,000 joyous Wanderers fans watched the game on a giant screen in their heartland of Parramatta and celebrated the club's 1-0 aggregate win over Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal in Riyadh in style.

Fans hugged each other and set off red flares as the Wanderers held on for a 0-0 draw after winning the home leg 1-0 to clinch the Asian club title in only their third season.

Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop said the Wanderers’ triumph was “one of the most amazing sporting stories seen in Australian sport”.“This triumph will resonate throughout the game and across our nation. The impact will be felt beyond sport and will speak to Australia’s future in the Asian century and football’s pivotal role,” Gallop said.The triumph was hailed as "the greatest result in Australian club football history". "They've done it. Western Sydney Wanderers have achieved the seemingly impossible to become the first Australian champions of Asia," The Sydney Morning Herald trumpeted. 

"A club that didn't exist three years ago has now clinched the greatest result in Australian club football history by toppling Asia's club of the century to win a historic champions league title.

"The Wanderers hung on by the skin of their teeth, with a mixture of desperation and luck denying their hosts who looked destined to win a third ACL title."

The Daily Telegraph said: "From a twinkle in Australian football's eye to champions of Asia in less than three years. The incredible story of the Western Sydney Wanderers has its finest chapter to date.

"The Wanderers somehow held out against the relentless onslaught of Saudi giant Al Hilal before a frenzied home crowd to become the first Australian team to win the Asian Champions League."

The Guardian Australia described it as "surely the football story of the year".

"The Wanderers are champions of Asia. Three years ago, people would have claimed you were crazy to say such a thing - and they would have been right," it said. "Three years ago, there was no such thing as Western Sydney Wanderers yet here they were on Saturday evening, driving millions of Saudi Arabian fans mad with frustration before lifting the biggest prize in the world's biggest continent."

Twitter went into meltdown with users clamouring to express their praise for Western Sydney. SBS television football commentator Craig Foster tweeted: "Simply extraordinary! Congratulations to Tony (Popovic), his team, the club & fans. This is a story for the ages!!"

Another tweeted: "Wanderers and Poppa (Tony Popovic) incredible result! Now it's over to you Ange (Postecoglou) and the budding Roos! Make us even prouder at home in the Asian Cup!!"

Italian great Alessandro Del Piero, who spent two seasons in the A-League with Sydney FC, tweeted: "Congratulations @wawanderersfc winner of the 2014 #afcasiancup a great result for Australian football (soccer) continuing it's growth."

FIFA chief Sepp Blatter joined in and posted: "Incredible achievement. Congratulations @wswanderersfc on your #AFCfinal win. See you in Morocco at the #ClubWC!"

The Wanderers will now qualify for the riches of next month's FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco, featuring continental champions, where they could face Real Madrid among others.

Western Sydney went one better than Adelaide United, who lost the two-leg AFC Champions League final to Japan's Gamba Osaka in 2008.