Popovic: “Dreams do come true”

Not even a deplorable lack of sportsmanship from Al-Hilal’s Nasser Al Shamrani could wipe the smile off Tony Popovic’s face after guiding Western Sydney to AFC Champions League glory.

Having sealed a 1-0 aggregate victory in the regional decider with a 0-0 draw in Riyadh on Sunday, the Wanderers’ celebrations were rudely interrupted when Al Shamrani spat at Matthew Spiranovic, following an attempt to head-butt the substitute late in the stalemate at the King Fahd International Stadium.

Al Shamrani then sought to confront Spiranovic again as the visitors embraced, prompting an unseemly melee between players, coaches and officials on both sides.

And those distasteful scenes were reflected in the voice of a slightly subdued Popovic during his on-field interview with Fox Sports.

“It’s a little tough to sink in at the moment,” he said.

“Obviously very proud of the players. I think it’ll sink in once we get out of this stadium.

“Marvellous achievement from the players, the club, Australian football. We’re the champions of Asia – dreams do come true.”

Asked if resilience was the word to sum up his team’s peformance, Popovic said: “You can name so many throughout today and throughout the whole campaign. But that resilience, yup, I’ll give you that one for now. But there are so many more I’m sure we’ll talk about the next few days.

“It’s a special group to coach. They never know when they’re beaten. They’ve made history tonight.”

As for where the claiming the ACL crown ranks among his achievements in the dugout, Popovic – who has already guided the Wanderers to the A-League Premiers’ Plate and two grand final defeats – was unequivocal.

“It has to rate as the best,” he said.

“It’s been a very short time as a coach, it’ll be sink in in a few days, but we’re just delighted.”