• Wanderers players celebrate in front of Guangzhou fans, some of whom had made life strangely difficult before their ACL quarter-final clash. (AAP)
EXCLUSIVE: Western Sydney Wanderers players have told extraordinary tales of how far Guangzhou Evergrande supporters went to try to put them off their game before the second leg of their Asian Champions League quarter-final tie even began on Wednesday night.
By
Greg Prichard

28 Aug 2014 - 12:22 PM  UPDATED 28 Aug 2014 - 12:40 PM

Locals banging on their hotel room doors in the middle of the night before the game, backed up by abusive phone calls to their rooms, and a mysterious bus crash on the way to the ground that to the players seemed anything but an accident.

"A car swerved in front of our bus and who knows if it was a set-up to do with the football or not," 21year-old defender Brendan Hamill said. "We slammed on the brakes and someone ran up the back of the bus. We had a spare bus following us, fortunately.

"It worked to their disadvantage if it was a set-up. It gave everyone in the team more belief and hunger to get the job done."

Fellow defender Shannon Cole had no doubt the action of the driver whose car swerved in front of the bus was deliberate.

"Someone purposely swerved in front of the bus, slammed the brakes on and the bus hit them and then another bus hit us from behind," Cole told Sydney radio program Big Sport Breakfast. "Then we had a back-up bus and five minutes later, another accident.

"They did everything possible. At the ground, hundreds of bottles being hurled at us. But we got there in plenty of time - the coaching staff planned it very well.

"There's passion and there's stupidity. I mean, you would think with such a big club the fans would have faith in their players to do the job, but they felt like they would take matters into their own hands.

"Whether they were pushed or encouraged by people, who knows."

Cole said the banging on hotel room doors and phone calls to the rooms started around 3am and continued on and off for the next couple of hours. He said that the phone calls involved the callers "hurling abuse".

Hamill said the banging on the doors was so loud it sounded like "thunder".

"I'm not sure if they banged on my door at any stage, but they were banging on the door of the boys' room next to me and that woke me up," Hamill said. "It was pretty loud - it sounded like thunder.

"It was going on at three, four o'clock - they were trying to rattle us."

But Hamill said the late-night disruptions and the bus accident just made the players more determined to get the job done on the field and advance to the semi-finals.

Wanderers did that by scoring the key away goal. They lost the game 2-1, but advanced because they had scored the only away goal in the 2-2 aggregate.

"It made us more determined, gave us more hunger, more drive," Hamill said. " It fuelled us even more to get the job done. They tried to rattle us and it didn't work.

"You could see the look in the players' eyes. The belief was there and we were going to be pretty hard to stop getting through to the semi-finals. We were ready."

Hamill is shaping up as another success story for Wanderers coach Tony Popovic.

He has come back to the A-League, in which he began with the then Melbourne Heart, via a stint in Korea, and with central defender Mathew Spiranovic out injured he has already been thrust into the spotlight and done a terrific job.

Paired with captain Nikolai Topor-Stanley in the central defence, Hamill was very calm against a Guangzhou Evergrande side that came with wave after wave of attack at times.

"It was relentless at times, but we knew that, together, we were a unit," Hamill said.

"We knew we were very hard to break down. They got two goals, but they couldn't get the third they needed because we had so much belief in this team. We believe in each other, every one of us, so there was no doubt throughout the game that we would get through.

"It's great to be at this club. I'm thrilled. Last night was an experience that will last with me forever.

"It was unfortunate for 'Spiro' to be out injured, but I've taken it as it comes and just tried to play my game and play the game 'Popa' wants us to play, and do the best I can."

Wanderers goalkeeper Ante Covic saved a penalty and came up with several other key stops as well. Hamill described him as "the match-winner".

Asked if the Wanderers believed they could go all the way and win the ACL, Hamill replied: "Yes, we do. We have a tight bunch and the belief is very high in each and every one of us.

"There are a lot of doubters out there, but we're just going to focus on ourselves and take it step by step and we'll see what happens."