MARK BRIDGE has scored in two successful A-League grand finals but argues that scoring the Western Sydney Wanderers' historic first goal is one of his greatest achievements.
He has never been one of the A-League's great goal scorers, but Bridge proved yet again that he's a scorer of memorable goals with a powerful header to beat back-to-back champions Brisbane Roar. Bridge said the goal was one he would savour for many years.
''This is up there, let me tell you, this is way up there,'' Bridge said. ''This was a very big moment for the club and even bigger for me being a west Sydney boy and being able to say that I was the first person that scored a goal for the team. It's a big goal and I'm very honoured.'' Bridge has a modest return of a goal in every five games throughout his A-League career. That return fails to recognise the decisive goals he scored in the 2007 and 2010 grand finals. His strike at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night didn't deliver a trophy but provided a slice of history nonetheless.
''It felt great, once I saw it hit the back of the net, it felt unbelievable. For us boys to get that reward for all that hard work and the way we've been playing and a win to top it off is brilliant,'' Bridge said. ''I'm proud and very honoured to be the first person to score for the Western Sydney Wanderers.''
Pressure had started to mount on the Wanderers after they failed to create enough goal scoring chances in their opening three games. But, they went a long way towards silencing critics with an impressive 1-0 at Suncorp Stadium. The debutants spent much of the match without the ball but their defence comfortably contained the Roar's expansive attacking game.
Bridge's goal got the club off the mark in both the goals and wins column. Now the ex-Sydney FC man wants the club to use Saturday as a springboard for the remainder of the season.
''I think we've been very competitive in the first three games. I think every team has been caught off-guard about how competitive we would be,'' Bridge said. ''We've held our own and now to get that goal, it shows that we can match it with the best and hopefully this springs us into a little bit of a roll and we can go from here.'' The Wanderers were long odds to return to Sydney with any points - let alone all three - but Bridge says his team had fancied their chances against the two-time A-League champions.
Western Sydney players had made no secret of their disappointment at losing to their cross-town rivals last week and admitted their confidence had taken a hit. Coach Tony Popovic urged his players to keep believing in their brand of football and assured them results would follow.
''[Popovic said] Keep doing what you're doing and believe in what we are aiming for, believe the structure, believe in the way we're playing and the rest will come. He rarely says the wrong things and once again he was right.'' Bridge said.