Western Sydney Wanderers boss Tony Popovic hopes Friday night’s late win over Perth Glory is the type of result that will give the squad the belief to go on and win the title.
In a hard-fought and at times feisty encounter at Pirtek Stadium, the Wanderers ground out a 2-1 win thanks to Brendon Santalab’s 85th minute winner.
While it wasn’t the home side’s most fluent display of the season, the fact they were able to battle and find a way to grind out a win is what pleased Popovic most.
“At this stage, points are crucial. It's tight at the top, but we also are at the top,” the Wanderers boss said.
“We're at the top because we're finding a way to win tight games. I'm delighted for the group, because I believe against Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC we played well enough to win one of those games [but only drew]
“Against Wellington we were poor so it was good to get back to a level that we can win a game of football here at home.
“In a real tough game this will hopefully prepare us for what's to come as the season progresses.”
Glory sat deep and made it hard for the Wanderers to play through them, which contributed to a dull affair in the first half.
But things opened up after the break with Western Sydney taking the lead through Romeo Castelen only to gift Glory an equaliser two minutes later from the penalty spot.
It appeared the match would head for a draw until super sub Santalab scored an excellent winner near the death.
It was the striker’s sixth goal of the campaign coming off the bench, and fourth coming in the 84th minute or later.
“I’m Delighted. He came on and made a difference, and that's what you hope for from your substitutes,” Popovic said.
“It was a special goal, a really difficult goal to score and brave to keep the control like that over the keeper. And to score so late, we're delighted.”
Asked if he believes teams will now try and sit back to stifle the Wanderers for the rest of the season, Popovic said: "I'm not sure what the other teams think before they come here.
“They had a good game plan today and they would have been happy with a point and would have gone home pleased.
“We've shown we've been able to win games even here playing quickly in transition against teams playing higher. Now the challenge is to find a more consistent solution on how to play teams sitting deep.
“That's not easy - to get through a well-organised side. We showed that in the first couple of years we played here. But that's a challenge we have, we embrace it and so far we're finding solutions.”
The only concern for the Wanderers is a hamstring injury to playmaker Dario Vidosic, who limped off after just 10 minutes, although Popovic said the “initial diagnosis is it's not bad”.