From the basement to the penthouse – that’s what Adelaide United have achieved in a remarkable campaign, as the Reds deservedly won the A-League grand final.
Guillermo Amor won no less than five La Liga titles as a player with Barcelona – plus a European Cup to boot – and the city of Adelaide might as well re-name Rundle Mall for the Spaniard after he led Adelaide United to their first ever A-League championship.
Did Amor out-coach Western Sydney counterpart Tony Popovic? That’s debatable – but there’s no denying the fact Popovic has now been on the losing side of three A-League grand finals, following yesterday’s 3-1 defeat.
The third came on the back of a mesmerising performance from Adelaide, with the Reds shaking off any grand final nerves with a first-half performance of the highest calibre.
The opening goal was testament to Adelaide’s undoubted class, as Marcelo Carrusca deftly controlled a high ball and exchanged passes with Stefan Mauk, before skipping away from Andreu to deliver a cross to the edge of the six-yard box.
It looked an innocuous ball in until Bruce Kamau ghosted into the space left by a static Wanderers’ defence, with the youngster side-footing Adelaide in front and sending the home fans into raptures.
If Adelaide’s opening goal was a reminder of their counter-attacking power, then the second from Isaias was as good a free-kick as you’ll see anywhere in the world.
It says much about the global appeal of the world game that a player who once counted four games for Espanyol as his greatest achievement could one day add the Joe Marston Medal to his collection.
His stupendous 34th-minute free-kick would have beaten the very best goalkeeper in the world, so there was little Andrew Redmayne could do when the Spaniard lifted the dead ball over the wall and into the top corner.
Full credit to Western Sydney for refusing to throw in the towel, as the Wanderers came out with renewed determination in a pulsating second half.
Defender Scott Neville might have been the unlikeliest of goal scorers, but his well taken half-volley brought the visitors right back into the contest.
And after the heroics of their 5-4 semi-final win over Brisbane Roar last week, it was tempting to imagine the Wanderers could do it all over again.
That they failed to do so is testament to the outstanding team unity of the Reds.
Not only did Pablo Sanchez come off the bench to add more grit to Adelaide’s guile over the closing stages, but the Spanish star went on to seal victory with a late third.
It was no less than Adelaide deserved, with rookie coach Amor managing to guide his team to the premiership and championship double in his first season as coach.
And he did so despite the fact that the Reds sat rock bottom and winless after eight rounds of the regular season.
Adelaide’s comeback surely marks one of the most astonishing turnarounds in the history of Australian sport, and makes a mockery of those fans who called for Amor’s sacking earlier in the season.
It likewise vindicates Adelaide’s decision to trust Amor with the top job in a season in which, like a fine Barossa wine, the Reds simply got better the longer the competition rolled on.
Amor would no doubt love to emulate legendary coach Zoran Matic, who guided Adelaide City to three championships during the National Soccer League era.
There were far fewer fans on the terraces back in those days, and the 50,000 supporters who packed into Adelaide Oval yesterday deserve plenty of plaudits.
About the only blemish were the flares lit by visiting supporters, with the Wanderers likely to face heavy sanctions next season.
But to dwell on that is to take away from one of the most impressive turnarounds in Australian sport.
Adelaide United are the new A-League champions and deservedly so, following the most gripping finals series we’ve experienced to date.