The Hyundai A-League is coming soon. But why do we love it so much? There are many reasons but in one utterly astounding match last season, all these reasons were bundled into one.
With a spot in the Hyundai A-League Grand Final up for grabs, more than 20,000 fans crammed into Pirtek Stadium to find out who would join Adelaide United in the decider.
Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar had already been involved in three cracking contests in season 2015/16 but that was nothing on what transpired over the next 120 astonishing minutes at Wanderland.
In a crazy start to the match, Roar stunned the home fans racing to a 3-0 lead inside the first 23 minutes.
First Dimitri Petratos converted a penalty after Andreu handled in the area before the Wanderers Spanish midfielder compounded his error by scoring an own goal.
When Jamie Maclaren’s deflected shot lobbed over keeper Andrew Redmayne, Roar was in dreamland and starting to think about playing in yet another grand final.
But Dutchman Romeo Castelen had other ideas.
The mercurial winger got the comeback started on 26 minutes with a rasping free-kick, before Brendon Santalab got it back to 3-2 just before half-time.
That was just the start of the drama.
Castelen got the Wanderers back on level terms seven minutes after the break when he was on hand to smash a shot into the roof of the net after Mitch Nichols and Mark Bridge had attempts blocked.
Then on the hour mark Castelen completed his hat-trick, judging the bounce of the ball better than Thomas Broich on the edge of the box before unleashing a brilliant volley which gave the keeper no chance.
Pirtek was pumping. But as they had shown many times over the first 11 seasons of the Hyundai A-League, never write of Roar.
Maclaren drew the visitor’s level when he tapped in Henrique’s shot-come-cross nine minutes from time, meaning this epic semi-final was headed to extra-time.
And it would be former Brisbane Roar playmaker Dario Vidosic that would deliver the hammer blow in the first period of extra-time.
After his initial shot was parried away by Jamie Young, Vidosic stayed alive in the middle and scooped Bridge’s cross high into the net from close range.
The Wanderers held on to prevail 5-4 and book their spot in a third grand final in four seasons for the club.
It was one incredible match on a memorable night in Sydney’s west which provided some great attacking play, defensive howlers, an unforgettable atmosphere, edge of your seat drama and one amazing fightback.
That’s what the Hyundai A-League and finals football is all about and a fantastic way to say goodbye to Wanderland before its redevelopment.
Bring on the new season!