Adelaide United were acclaimed on Thursday for becoming the first Australian team to reach the AFC Champions League final, an achievement rated by some on a par with the Socceroos making the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™.
The Reds went down 1-0 in Tashkent on Wednesday against Uzbekistan's Bunyodkor, but comfortably protected their 3-0 semi-final home first leg buffer to go through to next month's two-leg final against Japan's Gamba Osaka. It was the high point of Australian club football since Australia left Oceania to join the Asian Football Confederation in 2006.
"This is one of the most significant achievements to date for an Australian club team, and Adelaide have had many people enthralled with their progress through this prestigious competition," Football Federation Australia chief executive Ben Buckley said. "Adelaide United is leading the way in the A-League and all of us are delighted with (coach) Aurelio Vidmar, his players and all the people behind the scenes at the club."
Vidmar equated his club's achievement on a par with Australia reaching the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals under Guus Hiddink. "This certainly is as big as the national team getting to the World Cup," said the former Socceroo midfielder. "It is the biggest competition in club football in Asia, and it is a magnificent achievement to get to the final, a real magnificent achievement.
"We have done it in the hardest possible way in terms of the resources of the other clubs so for us to get this far is unbelievable. We have been very, very good throughout the group stage, and over the two legs in the quarter-final and the two legs in the semi-final and we deserve to go through."
On top of the result, Adelaide escaped without a yellow card in the Tashkent match, meaning Vidmar will have everyone available, barring injuries, for the first leg of the final.
Adelaide have beaten five-times J-League champions Kashima Antlers and the Zico-coached Bunyodkor to get this far, and now have a showdown against Gamba, who beat defending champions Urawa Reds 4-2 on aggregate. Gamba will have home advantage in the first leg on 5 November, with the second leg in Adelaide on 12 November.