Popa praises Wanderers fighting spirit

Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic has hailed his side’s Hyundai A-League season after a 2-0 win over Wellington Phoenix secured them second place in the regular season.

MATCH REPORT: Wanderers secure second spot with win in Wellington

“Overall, we have to be delighted with that. We finished second,” said Popovic.

“We’ve picked up 48 points which is the second-most we’ve picked up so we’ve had a fantastic season. It’s a credit to everyone. We had a lot to play for in terms of finishing as high up the ladder as we could and we got the job done (tonight) so we’re delighted.”

“We’ll digest this, enjoy the victory, enjoy where we finished and (then) we’ve got two weeks of hard work to be ready for whoever comes to Parramatta.”

Western Sydney’s second-place finish earns them a week off and hosting rights for a semi-final in a fortnight, the importance of which wasn’t lost on the Wanderers mentor.

“It’s important in terms of how the league is structured and how the finals are structured. First and second get a week off.  It (also) puts us in a great position to get a chance to get back into the (Asian) Champions League.”

Wanderers goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne makes a save at Westpac Stadium on Sunday.

The win in Wellington came off the back of two first-half goals from Brendon Santalab against a spirited Phoenix side.

“I’m very pleased. (It was a) very professional, disciplined performance,” said Popovic.

“In the first half we had a lot of moments early and we didn’t take those chances. You always feel that with the quality Wellington has in the front third, they’ll get something. They’re always dangerous.  In general I thought we restricted them quite well in terms of clear-cut opportunities. If they got anything it was maybe from a lack of concentration or us giving the ball away.

“It’s another away win; it’s not easy to win away games, especially here. Overall, I think it was thoroughly deserved.”

Popovic will now turn his attention to structuring the week ahead with no idea who his side’s next opponent will be.

“It’s a good problem to have,” he said with a smile.

“It’s one that we’ll enjoy tonight and tomorrow, working out what’s best. We’ve got great staff and I’m sure they’ll devise a plan that’ll work best for our club.”