Wanderers beat Sanfrecce to reach ACL quarters
Tsukasa Shiotani (R) of Sanfrecce Hiroshima fights for the ball with Santalab Brendon (L) of Australia's Western Sydney Wanderers during the AFC Asian Champions League football match at Pirtek Stadium in Sydney on May 14, 2014 - by Saeed Khan
The Wanderers, trailing 1-3 from the first leg in Japan, levelled the tie with goals from Shannon Cole and Brendon Santalab and go through to the last eight of the Asian showpiece thanks to their away goal.
Wanderers are the third Australian team to reach the ACL quarter-finals after Adelaide United in 2008 and 2012.
The match turned when Cole lashed home a volley in the 55th minute after a cut-back from Japanese star Shinji Ono.
Sanfrecce's defence played deeper in the second half and Wanderers mounted wave after wave of attacks in search of the clinching goal.
It came with five minutes remaining in normal time when Santalab blasted home after more deft lead-up work from Ono.
Wanderers saw out the five minutes of stoppage time to preserve their advantage and go into the draw for the two-leg quarter-finals in August.
The victory was a fitting farewell for Ono and Dutch midfielder Youssouf Hersi.
Ono is returning to Japan to join Consadole Sapporo, while Hersi is leaving Wanderers to join A-League rivals Perth Glory next season.
"It's been a great year and I'm really pleased for the players," said Wanderers coach Tony Popovic, who played five seasons as a defender for Sanfrecce.
"It's great to send the players who are leaving out on a high and I'm just honoured to be head coach of this club.
"It's a very close unit. We understand the way football is, that players move on, but they gave everything they had for the club in their final game."
One said the victory made him very happy.
"I believe in this team and we believe in ourselves and that's why we have a good result tonight," he said.
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