Centre of attention … Aaron Mooy celebrates. Photo: Brendan Esposito
WESTERN SYDNEY Wanderers have only one scalp left to claim in their extraordinary maiden A-League campaign, but it is the biggest one imaginable and can be collected next weekend.
A 1-0 home win on Saturday against Perth gave the Wanderers a seventh straight victory, leaving them one shy of Melbourne Victory's record eight-match winning streak in 2006.
Western Sydney sat proudly atop the A-League for a couple of hours on Saturday until Central Coast reclaimed first place with a devastating 6-2 home thrashing of Victory.
Those results set up a top-of-the table blockbuster between the Mariners and Wanderers in Gosford on Saturday.
Central Coast are the only one of the other nine A-League teams the Wanderers have still to beat, drawing 0-0 and losing 2-0 to them in matches at Parramatta Stadium.
''I haven't thought too much about our record with Central Coast but, of course, they are good,'' Wanderers' coach Tony Popovic said.
''The last two seasons, they've been in a grand final, won a Premiers Plate … We'll give them the respect that they deserve as a top side.
''I think the players have earned the right to play in a big game, and they are looking forward to it.
He wasn't concerned his players would have trouble staying grounded.
''We've won seven straight so, if that was a problem, it would have come up before,'' Popovic said.
''The players are very grounded, and they want to improve and they want to get better and they want more, so they are very hungry.''
Perth caretaker coach Alistair Edwards is among the growing band of admirers the Wanderers have picked up along the fairytale journey of their debut season.
''I think everyone in the whole country, it [the Wanderers] is probably their second [favourite] team at the moment, because we've always wanted a western Sydney team to do well,'' Edwards said.
On Sunday, Wellington Phoenix kept their faint A-League play-off hopes alive with a 2-2 draw against Adelaide United in Wellington.