SYDNEY: Western United striker Besart Berisha has had quite the run in the A-League with four championship titles in seven years but even he is not quite sure if he is wide awake or living in a dream at the moment.
Berisha's side, playing in their first season in Australia's professional soccer competition, have advanced to the semi-finals where they face Melbourne City FC on Wednesday.
Reigning champions Sydney FC face Perth Glory in the other semi-final, also on Wednesday.
"What a story," the 35-year-old said after an Alessandro Diamanti freekick gave them a 1-0 victory over Brisbane Roar that propelled them into the semis.
"We are in the semi-final in our first year in the league. We keep dreaming. Let's see where the story ends. I hope very far."
Western United were little more than a concept 18 months ago and Berisha was one of three veteran players, including Diamanti and defender Andrew Durante, signed by coach Mark Rudan to provide them with experience.
"It's huge to see where we started 12 months ago and where we are right now," said Rudan, the former coach of the Wellington Phoenix.
Rudan's former side were unlucky not to continue a remarkable story themselves as they dominated their clash with Perth but lacked a clinical edge.
The Phoenix started the season with four successive losses under new coach Ufuk Talay and relocated to Australia twice so the league could finish the season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"People need to acknowledge what Wellington Phoenix have done to (keep) this season going ... that's very important" said Talay.
He said the experience had been good for his side, especially if they have to repeat it if COVID restrictions remain in place for the next season, which starts in December.
"The belief was there and the process was there, and it got us to where we finished, third on the table," he said.
"That's our template and we'll build on that hopefully for next season."
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford)