Popa: Wanderers learning valuable lessons

His club might be in the midst of any injury crisis, but Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic would love to have the same problem next year.

MATCH REPORT: Perth Glory 3 - Western Sydney Wanderers 2

Western Sydney’s injury list reads longer than War & Peace and includes a number of high-profile casualties such as Brendan Santalab (shoulder), Matthew Spiranovic (hamstring) and Mark Bridge (groin).

Shannon Cole (collarbone), Mateo Poljak (calf), Brendan Hamill (thigh) and Golgol Mebrahtu (knee) are some of the other players sidelined in the wake of Western Sydney’s heavy travel and playing workload over the last 12 months.

The Wanderers have struggled to put their best team on the park since winning the AFC Champions League last November and are currently languishing in second-last position on the Hyundai A-League table.

Popovic said suiting up for three games a week for large chunks of the season had finally caught up with his players and the squad he took west for Saturday night’s match against Perth Glory was essentially the only fit personnel he had available.

However, the former Socceroos defender said he and his players were better for the experience and would attempt to carry those lessons learned into future seasons and campaigns.

“There are a lot of things you could do different, but circumstances are you don’t go into an off-season and change 10 players and go into a quarter-final of the Champions League, then semi and final, all in pre-season,” Popovic said.

“We missed 50-odd days of training through this pre-season and after the Morocco trip we started playing three games a week, hence the players didn’t get a chance to get the conditioning that you get from October until the end of February when the ACL starts.

“It’s something unique for us, but that’s what you get for winning the Champions League and I’d love to win that again and have that problem again, but next year we won’t have it so we’ll fight hard to have that problem again and see what we can do better as a club the following year.”

The good news for Popovic is his side didn’t pick up any new injuries in the 3-2 loss to Perth Glory at nib Stadium on Saturday night.

Popovic rued two missed chances from Kerem Bulut and Labinot Haliti in the second half that would have almost certainly turned the match in his side’s favour.

“You can see we’re creating chance after chance and every time we’re in the front third we look dangerous, but we got punished,” Popovic said.

“The overall result is tough to take, but I thought we played very well away from home again, as we did (against Brisbane Roar) on Wednesday night. The difference was we got punished for set plays and they scored a wonderful goal at the end.

“But at 1-1 we had two chances that you’ve really got to put away. If we put (one of them) away, you go 2-1 up and I’m sure we wouldn’t be sitting here after a defeat.”