Popovic laments defensive lapses
Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic says Ulsan taught his side some harsh lessons after they were given a reality check of just how tough life in Asia will be.
Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic says Ulsan taught his side some harsh lessons after they were given a sobering reality check of just how tough life in Asia will be.
The Wanderers' first match in the Asian Champions League ended in disappointment after they were humbled 3-1 at a wet Parramatta Stadium on Wednesday night.
Despite going ahead after just 43 seconds through Brendan Santalab's sublime volley, the home side were guilty of scrappy defensive mistakes which proved their undoing.
Normally so stingy at the back, Popovic was left to lament his side's charity in their own box which cost them any chance of a dream ACL start.
"The small details are even more important the higher you go and that's the harsh reality we got tonight," he said.
"You make a defensive mistake, you get punished.
"Their goals came from set plays and a long ball from their own half into the box. We just didn't deal with that.
"You have to take your opportunities when you're on top and you also have to cherish that ball a bit better. If you keep losing the ball it makes it difficult at this level."
Popovic bristled at suggestions his side was outplayed by the 2012 ACL champions but conceded the result shows just how much his side need to improve to compete with Asia's elite.
But the Wanderers boss is also about the big picture and gets some comfort from knowing being in the tournament will help grow the team and the club.
"It will do a lot for us. We want to be in this competition and we want to compete against the best," Popovic said.
"We've seen tonight what can happen against a quality side, who two years ago won the competition ... that's what you're up against.
"They know what they need to do at this level. It's a new experience for us, we'll certainly earn from this whole campaign but will learn from this game and we'll be better in the next match."
Ulsan coach Cho Min-Kook, who took over the role in the off-season, admitted he was surprised by his side's sharpness despite their domestic campaign still a week away from getting started.
"It's my first match so I didn't expect this type of quality in the game because their fitness level was very low so I didn't expect much," he said.
"But the players enjoyed the game so that's why they played so well.
"When the Wanderers scored the first goal I thought it was going to be a very difficult game for Ulsan if they played more aggressively.
"But after the shocking early goal the players re-grouped well."
The Wanderers have just four days to regroup before they host Newcastle in the A-League on Sunday, with their next ACL clash away to Chinese club Guizhou Renhe on March 12.