Monday, October 27, 2014

Wanderers head into the unknown


Western Sydney goalkeeper Ante Covic has declared the Wanderers won’t be intimidated, even if Al-Hilal fans resort to dirty tricks on and off the field when the team arrives in Riyadh for the second leg of their Asian Champions League decider.
The Wanderers were subjected to disruptive and potentially dangerous behaviour in Guangzhou, China for their ACL quarter-final, when locals deliberately caused car crashes with the team bus and shined laser pointers into players’ faces during training and the match.
Covic had a laser shined directly at him when saving a penalty early in the tie-clinching match against Guangzhou Evergrande, and said he and the Wanderers are expecting similar shenanigans from the passionate Saudi Arabian supporters.
Laser pointers were first used at Saudi venues back in 2006, and King Fahd Stadium with its capacity of 65,000, is known for being a gauntlet for opposition supporters.
The veteran shot-stopper said if Al-Hilal try to disrupt the Wanderers, they will live to regret it.
“We’re not going to be intimidated,” said Covic.
“We’re not going to care what they’re going to throw at us.
“We were in China with 50,000-odd people throwing bottles and yelling at us. We couldn’t even walk off the field without security coming to get us, so that’s not going to faze us.
“They can do what they want.
“We’re going there with the mindset that something probably will happen.
“(But) if they’re thinking of throwing any tricks, they’re going to be doing it to the wrong team.”
In Guangzhou, the Wanderers say they were spurred on by the outrageous tactics of the locals.
From dogs being set loose during training sessions to intruders door-knocking and prank-calling the team hotel at 2am the morning of the match, the Wanderers thought they’d seen it all.
That was until the trip to the ground, where the team bus was hit from the front and rammed from the back, forcing the players to change vehicles.
Then within minutes, two cars suspiciously crashed into each other directly in front of the new bus, attempting to delay the Wanderers’ journey to the ground.
Western Sydney lost 2-1, but the away goal was enough to guarantee their path to the semi-finals.
“It was a very, very suss bus crash. The boys were looking at each other going, `alright, this is what you’ve got for us.’
“It really fired us up more than anything.
“That’s the nature of our team.
“Throw anything at us and we’ll come back at you twice as hard.”
Covic said one thing the players weren’t going to worry about was the officiating.
“That’s out of our hands,” he said.
“The only thing we can be worried about is what we can control.
“If they want to try little things like (50-50 calls going to Al-Hilal), that’s something we have to deal with in a professional manner.
“We’re going to be disciplined on the field and do everything we can do to win the game.”

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