Popovic praises persistent Wanderers


Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic was a relieved man after his side managed its first win of the season on Sunday afternoon, but he stressed it needs to be a building block for the back end of the season.

The Wanderers’ 2-0 win over Wellington Phoenix broke a 13-game winless streak in the Hyundai  A-League, and after last weekend’s 2-1 loss to Melbourne City, which Popovic describes as the worst in the club’s short history, Sunday’s win couldn’t have come at a better time.

“Last week was very, very poor and the poorest we’ve been since we started the club, so we needed a reaction,” he explained.

“The players were probably a little bit nervous in the end, trying to hold onto something and that probably comes from not having won a game, but again overall of course we’re delighted.

“Last week we had a three week break and we tried to integrate a few new players and we looked disjointed. Today we looked more like a team.”

Popovic hailed Socceroo hero Matthew Spiranovic as well as goal-scoring substitute Brendon Santalab who has battled back into the side after a long-term shoulder injury, but said the support of a vocal crowd at Sportingbet Stadium made all the difference.

“Of course there’s a long way to go, we’ve got a lot of improvements to make but that desperation was back, that sprit was back and for our fans, you know, that’s always a lift.

“They’re out there again in numbers in these conditions, 35-36 degrees, your team hasn’t won in 13 and they’re out there and that’s why they’re special and I’m glad they’re going home happy tonight.”

After two losses to the Phoenix already this season, Popovic is glad to have the monkey of his back and is looking forward to taking on Newcastle next week. The Jets have recently sacked a raft of personnel and are now just one point ahead of the Wanderers at the foot of the table.

“It’s one win in 14. For me as a coach you won’t see me doing cartwheels about that, but it was a pressure game and we needed a reaction after last week.

“We played better in the two previous games against Wellington away from home and got nothing.

“Now the challenge is going to Newcastle and doing it again. Can we repeat it again and put on an improved performance and try and get a win.”

Nikita Rukavystya scored in the 18th minute and was replaced with a calf strain just before halftime, but Popovic said it was just a precaution.