Popa lauds Wanderers’ ‘special’ Santalab

Western Sydney boss Tony Popovic hailed the influence of Brendon Santalab after the striker inspired the Wanderers to a crucial win over Wellington on Saturday night.

Santalab scored a brace for the visitors while he also set-up Nico Martinez’s goal as the Wanderers beat Phoenix 3-1 in New Plymouth.

Santalab brace fires Wanderers past 10-man Phoenix

“Santa’s a special player,” Popovic told Sky Sports NZ.

“He does what he does best and that’s score goals. And we hope that will continue.”

With new attacking signing Ryan Griffiths on the bench, Santalab perhaps wanted to prove to his boss he’s still the leading striker at the club.

And while the 34-year-old was involved in all the key moments for the Wanderers, it was a vastly improved performance from the whole team.

“You come away from home against a very good attacking line-up, very dangerous at set-pieces and we dealt with that very well,” Popovic said.

“We always looked very dangerous going forward as well.

“We played with a lot of confidence and a lot of belief which we’ve been seeing throughout the year and certainly this week at training. And I’m pleased for the players to get that reward.”

Wanderers players celebrate a goal in their 3-1 win over Wellington Phoenix.

The win comes at the end of a week where Popovic has been forced to answer some tough questions about his future in the wake of their inconsistent 2016/17 Season so far.

“We welcome the expectation and we welcome the scrutiny,” Popovic said.

“We’re a big club, we’re big boys and we can handle it.”

The Wanderers will end the weekend in the top six ahead of their next match at home against Central Coast Mariners on Sunday week.