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Perth Glory v Sydney FC: Popovic's chance to end Grand Final hoodoo

23:00 IST 17/05/2019
TonyPopovic - Cropped
Tony Popovic is aiming to win his first A-League Grand Final when Perth Glory host Sydney FC.

Tony Popovic is the best coach in the A-League, but the Perth Glory boss still has a point to prove domestically and he may do so on Sunday.

Popovic led Perth to their first piece of A-League silverware by claiming the premiership this season after an impressive campaign.

Deservedly named coach of the year for a second time, the former Australia international has dominated domestically, aside from winning arguably the biggest prize on offer – the championship.

An A-League Grand Final win has eluded Popovic and it is beginning to shape as a hoodoo. In six seasons as a coach in Australia's top flight, the 45-year-old has reached the decider four times, the latest of which will come when Perth host Sydney FC on Sunday.

But he is winless, experiencing heartbreak with the Western Sydney Wanderers in 2013, 2014 and 2016. A defeat to the Central Coast Mariners was followed by an extra-time loss to Brisbane Roar before going down to Adelaide United.

Given Popovic led the Wanderers to the biggest prize in Asian club football – the AFC Champions League in 2014 – the Grand Final failures are hard to explain.

Along with an FFA Cup, a championship is all that is missing from Popovic's resume domestically.

He returned from a forgettable spell with Karabukspor in Turkey to take the helm at Perth, an underperforming club filled with potential they had not fulfilled since the days of the now-defunct National Soccer League (NSL).

Popovic turned that around quickly. Perth were clearly the A-League's standout and most consistent team this season, losing just three of 27 regular-season games and finishing eight points clear at the top. They will record their highest average crowd since the A-League started and another 60,000 people are expected to fill Optus Stadium on Sunday.

Yet, there was an element of nervousness about Perth in their thrilling penalty shoot-out win over Adelaide in an incredible Semi-Final.

And if Popovic and his team are unable to find a way against a dangerous Sydney side, their season will finish with an undeserved element of disappointment.

For the coach himself, it is a chance to end Grand Final misery, or see a hoodoo only grow for at least another year.