Mullen: Western Sydney cannot rest on laurels

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Photo courtesy WSG


Defender has called upon to produce more of the same in Saturday’s decisive final second leg at King Fahd International Stadium with Tony Popovic’s side out to defend a slender one-goal lead against Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal.

Full-back Mullen and the Western Sydney defence were severely tested in last weekend’s first leg at Parramatta Stadium as Al Hilal came out in search of an away goal.

But after Tomi Juric’s close range finish just after the hour marked secured a 1-0 success for Popovic’s AFC Champions League debutants after two-time Asian champions Al Hilal had failed stop Western Sydney extending their cleansheet record at home to six games in the competition, the A-League side will look to defend their slender advantage to Riyadh this weekend.

“In first leg we very disciplined and structured and made it hard for them, and we have to do the same again. We know they are going to have to come out and score some goals and we are going to try and stop them from playing,” said Mullen, who was appearing in his first AFC Champions League final after missing Adelaide United’s 2008 defeat by Japan’s Gamba Osaka due to international duty.

“These are the games that you want to play in. It is the second leg of the AFC Champions League final so bring it on. An away goal is not absolutely vital, but it would be nice.

“We can’t go out there and just defend. If we do that it is going to be impossible if they do happen to get a goal. We have got to go out and put them under pressure, like we did in the first leg.”

Mullen had helped Adelaide reach the 2008 final having been drafted into the side for the successes over Japan’s Kashima Antlers and Uzbekistan’s Bunyodkor in the knockout stage, but missed the 5-0 aggregate defeat by Osaka in the final after being called up to the squad for the 2008 AFC U-19 Championship.

But after finally getting his taste of a continental final at the weekend, Mullen is determined not to let Western Sydney’s hard work go to waste as Popovic’s side seek to land Australia’s maiden continental title against an Al Hilal side who are unbeaten at home in the AFC Champions League this season after only dropping points in their group stage opener back in February.

“We feel good so far, but we know it is only half the job so far. It was important that we got the goal and also kept a cleansheet so, so far so good,” added Mullen, who turned 25 on Sunday.

“They have a quality team with some great individual players and it was up to us to try and limit their space. In the first half they came out well and got on top of us, but once we got through that initial 20 minute period, we put some pressure on them as when you have quality players playing against you, you have got to get their heads down.”