Popovic happy with triumph despite sluggish start

Perth Glory coach Tony Popovic was pleased with the way his side responded to a first half that was a ‘little bit flat’ in their 1-0 success against Melbourne City on Saturday evening.

The Hyundai A-League table-toppers scored just before half-time, midfielder Chris Ikonomidis netting his fifth goal of the campaign.

But Popovic acknowledged his team were not at their best in the first 45 minutes, a challenge that Perth responded to in impressive fashion.

ANALYSIS: With City stars absent, Perth's big guns stand up
REPORT: 
Ikonomidis proves decisive as Perth Glory edge past ten-man Melbourne City
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“I have to be happy with three points,” Popovic said afterwards.

“Another home win, tough match. Real difficult, physical encounter. We win and we keep a clean sheet so we’re very happy.

“Every side that’s challenging at the end are up there because they can win when they’re not at their best.

“I think Melbourne City played well, they came out very strong in the first half.

“I thought in the second half, the game was different. It changed. We weren’t really caused many problems by Melbourne City.

“In the first half, they always looked a threat and they were dangerous.”

 

Ikonomidis


Elaborating on Perth’s first-half performance, Popovic felt his players took longer than expected to get over a trip to Wellington Phoenix last week.

“It’s a short turnaround [Sunday evening game in Wellington to Saturday evening game in Perth],” he said.

“I feel that our players in the first half were still getting over that trip. We looked a little bit flat. We picked up in the second half which was pleasing.”

Asked on his opinion if Ikonomidis’ stunning Hyundai A-League form were to be rewarded with a Caltex Socceroos call-up for the AFC Asian Cup 2019 - something that would sideline the midfielder for a chunk of Glory’s season - Popovic said it would be “wrong” to hope that he was not selected to represent his country.

“I think you have to be pleased. It’d be wrong of me to say any different because I played for the Socceroos,” he said.

“I had that honour and pleasure.

“From a club’s point of view, we’d love to see all the players staying here but really, it’d be wrong of us to not wish any of our players to have that honour, if they get it.”

Chris Ikonomidis


But Popovic stopped short of saying he was expecting to lose Ikonomidis and repeatedly said his selection was a decision for Caltex Socceroos boss Graham Arnold.

“I’m not expecting to lose any of them because it’s not easy to get into the Socceroos [squad] and that’s how it should be,” he added.

“Does he have an opportunity? I’m sure he does.

“If you base it on his form, he is a young player with a lot of talent, a lot of potential and that’s a decision for Graham Arnold. If Chris is in the mix for that, I’m delighted for him.”

Melbourne City boss Warren Joyce bemoaned the fact he lost three players - Ritchie De Laet, Florin Berenguer and Iacopo La Rocca - in training on Thursday.

He also felt City lacked cutting edge in attack.

“I thought we were on the front foot all night and certainly, first 35 minutes I thought we looked a dominant team,” Joyce said.

“Some good passing, some really good pressing, just at times the execution and decision-making around the box could have been a little bit better and if it was, it would have led to goals.”