Western Sydney, Brisbane to meet in A-League final

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SYDNEY (AP) -- Coach Tony Popovic says the Western Sydney Wanderers won't stumble at the final step as they did last year when they face Brisbane in next weekend's final of Australian football's A-League.

Western Sydney reached last year's final after winning the Premier's Plate but lost 2-0 to Central Coast to miss out on the crowning achievement of their debut A-League season.

They reversed that result on Saturday, beating Central Coast 2-0 in a charged semifinal, to reach the league decider for the second straight year.

Brisbane, which won the league in 2011 and 2012 before conceding the title to Central Coast, beat the Melbourne Victory 1-0 on Sunday to reach the final after winning the regular season premiership.

Popovic said after Western Sydney's gritty semifinal win, secured with goals by Youssouf Hersi in the first half and Iacopo La Rocca in the second, that the Wanderers are "mentally tougher" than last season.

"We are stronger in a few different areas," Popovic said. "Last year we had injuries, suspensions and a few coming back from injury. Also the (Asian Champions League) has maybe made us mentally tougher.

"We have always been mentally tough but there is a real resilience about this group now."

Popovic said Western Sydney's win over Central Coast, in a replay of last year's final, measured their improvement over their inaugural season.

"(They showed) that in another big game they could produce," he said "It shows how far they have come. This was a big, pressure game. They stood up and defended when they had to and were very resolute. It was a tough, typical semifinal with not an inch given by either team.

"I thought in the first five or 10 minutes we were a bit shaky and Central Coast started well. This is maybe another sign of the improvement in the team. We didn't panic and remained patient. Getting that first goal gave us belief."

Winger Hersi scored the opening goal in the 31st minute and La Rocca clinched the Wanderers' win in the 81st minute.

"It was a big game. Always we are ready for the big games," La Rocca said. "Today we showed that again. Now we have to play one more big game. Hopefully it won't be like last year."

Brisbane will host the final after its 1-0 win over the Victory in front of 28,000 fans at Suncorp Stadium.

Albania striker Besart Berisha took his scoring chance superbly in the 58th minute, receiving a pass from Thomas Broich, gliding into the area and waiting until defender Nicholas Ansell and goalkeeper Nathan Coe committed before placing his low shot.