Wanderers thrive on under-dog tag: Topor-Stanley

Western Sydney Wanderers FC skipper Nikolai Topor-Stanley has brushed off Al Hilal’s ‘over-confidence’ ahead of next weekend’s second leg and says his side is desperate to make it third time lucky when it comes to winning a big final.

The Wanderers are just one more solid defensive display away from an historic AFC Champions League crown following their gritty 1-0 win on Saturday night.

While Tony Popovic’s side is in the box seat to win the crown, they have fallen at the final hurdle before in losing the last two Hyundai A-League grand finals.

Even Al Hilal coach Laurentiu Reghecampf seems to have written the Wanderers off, declaring his side would “definitely win” the second leg in front of more than 65,000 fans on Sunday morning (AEDST).

“That’s something we’ve faced since day one of the competition, (being written off) is nothing new to us,” Topor-Stanley said on Monday.

“We thrive on that. He can under estimate us at his own peril, we don’t take any notice of that and just concentrate on what we have to do.

“We’ve got a big job ahead of us. It was a great feeling (on Saturday night) but it’s one that we’ll quickly have to put on backburner as we haven’t won anything yet.

“It’s the third bite of the cherry at a grand final for us and we really want to seize the moment and walk off with that trophy.” 

The Wanderers held an open training session on Monday with almost 200 fans showing up at Blacktown Olympic Park to see their heroes in action.

The squad was given a guard of honour as they came onto the training pitch, enduring a tough 90-minute session in humid conditions, similar to what they will expect in Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, striker Brendon Santalab will travel with the squad to Riyadh after being cleared of a shoulder injury.

Santalab dislocated his shoulder in the first half of Saturday night’s match but bravely played on for another 20 minutes before making way for eventual match-winner Tomi Juric.

Despite leaving the ground in a sling, scans cleared the 32-year-old of any major damage and he trained with the rest of the squad on Monday.

The only decision now facing Popovic is whether to stick with the same formula that worked so well in the first leg or go with Juric from the start in place of Santalab.

The Wanderers will have one more session at Blacktown on Tuesday before flying out for Riyadh later that evening.