Hostility ‘galvanised’ resilient Wanderers

Western Sydney Wanderers FC goalkeeper Ante Covic says the hostility the squad were subject to from Guangzhou Evergrande fans helped galvanise the team during their ACL quarter final.

The Hyundai A-League side are through to the AFC Champions League semi-finals, where they will travel to play FC Seoul on 17 September, having desposed of last season’s champions.

Speaking at a packed Sydney Airport where his side were given a heroes welcome by Red and Black fans, Covic recounted the harassment the team were subject to during their trip to China.

“There was a bus crash on the way to the stadium I think was staged by one of their supporters,” said Covic.

“We had a car following us the whole length of the trip and it swerved at us two or three times so it was a definite eye opener.

“I suppose they threw everything at us to unsettle us but having said that, that probably galvanised us more than anything.

“We had a reason to get really stuck in and fight for the job that we did so I think it backfired.”

While Covic emphasised the belief in the Wanderers’ dressing room as critical to getting a positive result, no doubt the turning point of the match was the 39-year-old’s first-half penalty save, which he rated among the best of his career.

“I was confident about this one, I just had a good feeling about it,” said Covic.

“I just had a feeling he was going to hit across his body and I left my movement to the last minute and was able to put my hand back up.

“As soon as it hit my forearm I knew I’d got a good enough hit where the ball was completely gone, there was going to be no rebound or anything.

“The timing of it as well was fantastic. It was up there with one of the most important I’ve produced because it gave the team a bit of a lift, a bit of a buzz, and I think it deflated them as well.

Asked whether he thought Elkison or Diamante would be the one to step up to the spot Covic said he was surprised with Guangzhou’s choice.

“I probably expected Diamente to take it but I know Elkeson has scored a lot of goals this season and is a class player as well,” he said.

“For whatever reason he took it. He got the penalty I suppose and felt confident enough to take it and I’m glad he did.”