Popovic hails brave Wanderers after relentless fightback

Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic has lauded his side for “not knowing when to give up” after their brave comeback against Melbourne Victory.

Substitute Brendon Santalab scored in the 89th minute to salvage a 1-1 draw for the league-leading Wanderers at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium on Saturday night, ensuring Popovic’s men remain at the top of the table for at least another week.

Despite conceding a goal after just 16 minutes, Western Sydney dominated the entertaining encounter, finishing with more than 62% of total possession and having 10 more shots on target than Victory.

Wanderers strike late to earn point against Victory

“Overall I think we deserved the three points, it’s not an easy place to come to,” Popovic said.

“We controlled the majority of the game and their keeper (Danny Vukovic) made some fantastic saves.

Wanderers players celebrate Brendon Santalab's late equaliser against Victory.

“In the end it was a deserved point. It was great to see the team come out in the second half and really try and push forward for that goal. They don’t know when to give up, so it was a very good performance.”

Popovic was unsure when asked if there had been a more dominant performance by his side this season which had failed to yield maximum points, but he admitted the Wanderers had not executed their game plan in the first 30 minutes.

“I thought in the first half we didn’t move the ball quick enough to expose them because we had so much of the ball, so we made it easier for them,” Popovic said.

“We made a mistake early on in possession and got punished from a set lay, but the reaction was excellent. I think we deserved something from the game. Whether it was late or not, we go home with a point and we move on to Wellington.”

The only downside for Western Sydney was the injury-time dismissal of defender Alberto for slapping Victory goalscorer Besart Berisha in the face and he will miss next Sunday’s home clash with the Phoenix.

Fellow Spaniard Dimas Delgado will also miss through suspension after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season, while Mitch Nichols (ankle) and Andreu (hamstring) are in doubt after both failed to play out the match.