Petkovic’s Saudi success a Grand Final omen?

If Sydney FC need a good omen ahead of Sunday’s Hyundai A-League Grand Final with Melbourne Victory, they need look no further than Serbian star Nikola Petkovic.

Though playing in his first Aussie grand final, the Sky Blues’ 29-year-old defender has experienced winning the play-offs against a rival club in the shirt of Saudi outfit Al Ahli.

In fact, it was Petkovic's penalty that won the final in the shootout. 

In the 2010/2011 season, Petkovic held his nerve at a packed King Fahd Stadium to nail the winning spot kick over Al Ittihad in the Kings Cup of Champions (a play-off for top six clubs now known as the Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques Champions Cup).

Locked at 0-0 by the end of extra time, Petkovic’s calmness under pressure helped win the day on penalties 4-2 for Al Ahli. Cue mayhem.  

Aussie fans have seen the white-hot atmosphere created by Saudi fans after Wanderers’ success over Al Hilal at the same venue in the ACL final last year. 

It’s this coolness on the big occasion from Petkovic that Sydney FC will look to when the curtain falls on the Aussie season at a packed AAMI Park this Sunday.

“It’s the biggest game in Australia, and I’m very excited to play. That’s why we play football,” he told at Monday night’s Hyundai A-League and Westfield W-League Awards.

“Your dream from when you are young is to play that kind of game. It’s something special.

“Honestly, I’ve played a lot of big games.  

“I have one game exactly like this when I was in Saudi after we played in play-offs. The stadium was full and we won against our biggest rival.

“The feeling was amazing. I can’t wait for those types of games. I know I’ll do my job well for sure.”

We must improve for fans’ sake, says Petkovic

While Petkovic’s coolness on the big day will be a bonus, the experience of coach Graham Arnold will be pivotal.

Arnie’s huddles with players and staff last Saturday night after winning the Semi Final have become talking points on social media.

Petkovic admitted the huddles were “strange” but stressed Arnod was the perfect man to prepare the team for the white-hot atmosphere awaiting the Sky Blues in Melbourne.

“He [Arnold] want to make some different culture [at the club] making us feel like one big family.

“It’s working well. It was strange [the huddle] but it’s really positive. He’s a really great coach who knows what to do.”

As for comparisons between Victory and Sydney FC, Petkovic noted the structural differences between the two top sides in the Hyundai A-League.

“Their attacking four are different to our front four. Maybe they are more aggressive, such as Berisha.

“And they use more the 1 v 1, they like dribbling with Ben Khalfallah and Barbarouses.

“We are more of a team that likes to play football with a structure. Of course with great attacking quality with Janko, Smeltz, Ibini with his speed and Kiki [Naumoff] who for me was man of the match against Adelaide [in the Semi Final].

“And Alex Brosque who is our captain who is great on the ball and has good movement. Behind that front four is Milos [Dimitrijevic] who is great with the ball.

“We are different to them [Victory] but for sure the two best teams in the league. Of course we have young players but after this Semi Final against Adelaide, I don’t worry about [them]."

And if it goes to penalties, there’s little doubt the big Serbian will want to step up on the biggest day of the season this Sunday. 

“These are big games and you’re born like a winner or not. I think we’ll win," he added.