Canberra Olympic 1 Western Sydney 3
Canberra Olympic vs Western Sydney Wanderers
Canberra Olympic FC take on Western Sydney Wanderers FC at the AIS Athletic Field, Canberra. Photo: Melissa Adams
Canberra might not have an A-League team, but it got a taste of what could have been from a loyal bunch of Western Sydney Wanderers fans who brought their much-vaunted atmosphere to the AIS.
Flares, constant singing and a cracking Mark Bridge volley were the highlights of the Wanderers' 3-1 win over Canberra Olympic in a pre-season friendly on Wednesday night.
Football Federation Australia opted to give an A-League licence to western Sydney instead of Canberra last year and it proved to be a great decision with the Wanderers storming into the grand final at their first attempt.
Canberra Olympic striker Mark Shields scored the home side's only goal, leaving fellow Canberran Nikolai Topor-Stanley in his wake in front of a crowd of almost 2000.
''It was a bit surreal, as soon as it went in I couldn't really believe it,'' Shields said.
''It was a great opportunity. It was good that we gave them a bit of a run, that was the main objective to keep them wanting to come back and I think we achieved that.
''Amazing [atmosphere] I think that's definitely something Australian football is needing.''
It looked set to become a rout for the A-League grand finalist, with Labinot Haliti causing all sorts of trouble down the right wing.
Not surprisingly he put the visitors in front after 13 minutes.
He was put through for a simple one-on-one with Olympic keeper Angelo Konstantinou and Haliti calmly side-footed it into the back of the net.
If it wasn't for Konstantinou he might have had at least two more as the Olympic stopper looked completely at home against quality opposition.
But an Olympic equaliser came out of the blue through a Wanderers error.
A poor pass ended up with Shields who went around Wanderers goalie Jerrad Tyson and slotted it home from a tight angle.
And the underdogs might have gone in front, with Stephen Domenici hitting the post in injury time.
In a clear sign of what the Wanderers wanted to get out of the game, they made nine substitutions at half-time.
One of those was Youssouf Hersi, who became the right-wing terroriser, creating several clear-cut chances and flashing a free kick over the bar.
Finally the winner came, with Tomi Juric making it 2-1 with just nine minutes remaining as the rain sheeted down.
It came not long after Japanese superstar Shinji Ono was introduced into the game, the lively UEFA Cup winner looking dangerous every time he got the ball.
Then Bridge smashed home the final nail from the top of the box in the dying seconds.