Western Sydney Wanderers snared one of the biggest results of their short yet remarkable existence by clinching a hard fought 1-0 win over Japanese club Kawasaki Frontale at Pirtek Stadium on Wednesday night.
For nearly two years, Australian football fans have watched on as the Wanderers suffocated the life out of A-League opponents. On on Wednesday, night against the third-placed club from strongest league in Asia, they sat deep and disciplined to simply hang on.
Their famous counter attacking play was still evident, but more a necessity than a ploy in the face of an opponent as strong as Kawasaki.
Despite the gulf in class between the two clubs, or for that matter, the leagues, the eventual winner didn't come about as a stroke of luck or against the run of play, rather an immediate strike that left the visitors stunned before they had settled.
Whether it was to cater for the fatigue of travel or perhaps complacency towards playing Australian teams on the continental stage, Kawasaki coach Yahiro Kazama fielded a second-string starting lineup, leaving Brazilian ace Renato and last season's J-League top scorer, Yoshito Okubo, on the bench.
Slightly disjointed by the reshuffle, the visitors' lack of cohesion was immediately punished by the Wanderers who also made nine changes of their own.
It took just three minute for the Wanderers youthful attacking trio to erode Kawasaki's defence with their well-drilled movement. Kwabena Appiah burst past an opponent to flick a through-ball through to the oncoming Tomi Juric who beat his marker to the ball.
It was skewed wide of the goal with insufficient pace to threaten the goalkeeper but it proved to be the perfect assist for his fellow forward, Labinot Haliti, who tucked the ball into the back of the net at the far post.
The visitors took time to settle, but as they did they were rattled by a horror moment that forced them to abandon their game plan. Central defender Kyohei Noborizato was taken off the field by stretcher after suffering a serious knee injury as their evening went from bad to worse. Their coach Yahiro Kazama was forced to make an early defensive substitution from a seven-man bench primarily consisting of his best attacking players.
The introduction of Japanese international Kengo Nakamura after the break was made to provide Kawasaki with more creativity in the middle of the park and the veteran nearly drew level with a vicious strike from deep that deceived Covic with a hefty deflection. The shot dipped too late to hit the back of the net.
It sparked life into the hosts whose fluidity, speed and movement increased with great effect. Chances fell to Kobayashi and youngster Ryota Oshima but neither could provide the finish their build-up play deserved.
There was a clear shift by the Wanderers deeper into their own half as they resorted to a deep defensive line and zonal marking. It was not surprising then when their best chance came from a set piece as Juric pulled a trademark bicycle kick that shaved the crossbar.
That scare prompted the introduction of Japan's top scorer from last year, Okubo, and the Wanderers response - bringing their wingers in line with their holding centre-midfielders to form a deep four man midfield, perhaps a first for the club.
They weren't parking the bus, but showing their skilful opponents respect. Their desperate defending was nearly punished late in the game when Okubo came close to scoring a deserved equaliser twice but as was clear from the start, this was to be Western Sydney's night.