Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic has refused to blame the rigours of their ACL-winning campaign after watching his side lose 1-0 to the Phoenix in Wellington.
“I think in terms of our performance and the effort the players put in, I don’t think you could see any hangover from the ACL. I think probably in the last 20 minutes you could see fatigue setting in. But remember there were only three players out there that played in the final”, said Popovic.
Western Sydney’s run to the ACL final has left several players short of game time while others needed resting after the physical and emotional toll of their win over Al Hilal.
“That’s Matty Spiranovic’s first start since the World Cup. Seyi Adeleke hasn’t played since May. Nikita (Rukavytsya) hasn’t played the whole pre-season in Germany. These are the difficulties we have, but in terms of performance there were some really encouraging signs for us.”
“We looked dangerous going forward which we haven’t looked in the first two A-League games. Of course you want the result but you can take the positives from a good performance.”
Now winless and pointless after three A-League games, the schedule doesn’t get any easier for WSW with a trip to Perth next on the agenda, followed by a midweek match against Central Coast and a visit from Newcastle three days later.
“We have to see how these players recover after tonight. But we’re quite positive. If we can build on that performance we’ve got a great chance of getting something in Perth. There are no excuses in that (changing) room. We move forward.”
Popovic also praised the Wellington Phoenix who have enjoyed their best-ever start to an A-League season.
“I’ve always said they’re a good side. I thought they were good last year and this year they’ve probably got more threat going forward, so they’re always dangerous. We’ve always had tough games in Wellington and tonight was no different.”