Popovic rues ‘soft goals’ in Victory mauling

Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic said he was disappointed with his team’s sloppy defensive display following their 4-1 loss to Melbourne Victory in the Hyundai A-League season opener.

Despite missing first-choice centre-backs Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Matthew Spiranovic through international duty and injury respectively, Popovic did not expect his usually rock-solid defence to find itself so exposed in the curtain-raiser.

“It wasn’t the best start from us,” he said.

“It was surprising. We knew Melbourne Victory would come out quick, which they did. But we conceded some really soft goals.

“We got back in the game. Santa had a great chance in the second half to make it 3-2. Although we weren’t playing well, goals change games. But then we made another mistake and got punished again. 4-1, the game was over.

“It was just one of those nights that certainly wasn’t a good one for us.”

The Wanderers, who have already progressed to the AFC Champions League final after an early start to their season, failed to match the enthusiasm of a Victory side playing their first competitive fixture of 2014-15 outside of the Westfield FFA Cup.

But the away side’s coach refused to attribute the defeat to a lack of motivation on the part of his players.

“I don’t want to use that as an excuse,” he said.

“We spoke about it through the week. The training’s been good. Whether our approach (could have been different) I’d have to check that with the players and I will during the week. Before they could blink they were down 3-0. A quick reminder that if you’re not at 100 percent, you’ll get punished.”

The Wanderers must now seek to put things right before an eagerly anticipated Sydney derby next weekend, followed by the two-legged ACL final against Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal.

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