Popa expects Wanderers to respond in Sydney Derby

A disappointed Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic expects his players to respond in this Saturday night’s Sydney Derby following their 2-0 loss to an excellent Central Coast Mariners on Sunday.

The Wanderers missed the chance to consolidate their spot in the top six after Roy O’Donovan’s brace saw the visitors notch a deserved 2-0 win at Spotless Stadium.

Popovic felt his side dominated the Mariners but paid the price for not taking their chances in the first half.

O’Donovan double fires Mariners to third straight win

He admits they are disappointed to have got nothing from another home match but says they need to move on with fierce rivals and unbeaten league-leaders Sydney FC coming to ANZ Stadium this weekend.

“It should be a very easy game for the players to get motivated for,” Popovic told reporters post-match.

“The last game in the derby we had a very good performance [0-0] at Allianz [Stadium] and from that point on we’ve played very well.

“Even when we lost in the last minute in Brisbane, we played very well. [The Mariners game] is probably the first game in that period since we played Sydney FC that I was disappointed after we conceded.

“At 1-0 I felt the game became anyone’s. Up until they scored in my view there was only going to be one winner and that was us.”

After Brendon Santalab scored a brace in the Wanderers’ 3-1 win in Wellington in round 18, Popovic decided to keep the veteran striker on the bench on Sunday.

Playmaker Mitch Nichols – in his 200th Hyundai A-League game – led the attack but the home side struggled to turn their possession into goal-scoring chances.

Asked if starting club leading-scorer Santalab could have made a difference, Popovic said: “Maybe he could have. But if we’re going to clutch at straws and say that is the reason we didn’t win then we have some issues.

“We dominated the first half, we created chances we didn’t score. “Santa” came on and had a fantastic chance so whether he had that chance in the 60th or 20th minute, at 0-0 he had a fantastic chance to score.

“Unfortunately he didn’t score and a minute later they got a penalty [to take the lead].

“It’s a bit of a story of the season, certainly at home, we’re struggling to get a win at our new venues. Today was another…a bit of the same old at Spotless.”

The Wanderers boss also moved to hose down speculation over his future at the club, amid reports Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua are keen on his services.

“It’s certainly something furthest from my mine at the moment,” Popovic said.

“That speculation is a little bit old. That’s going to happen with coaches and players alike, it is what it is.”