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Popovic delighted with Wanderers

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 16 Mar 2013

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Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic was immensely proud of his players who extended the club’s record A-League winning streak to 10 matches.

A 3-1 win over Melbourne Heart put the Wanderers eight points clear on top of the A-League ladder and they will be crowned premiers in their debut season if Central Coast fail to beat Brisbane on Sunday.

But Popovic maintains he has not thought about that prospect and is only focused on next week’s local derby with Sydney FC.

“We haven’t really reflected on that yet,” Popovic said post-match.

“I just spoke to the players (and) told them that we’re immensely proud of them and we focus for next week.

“We’ve got a great derby coming up, something the players, the fans, everyone involved with the club is really looking forward to and we’ll focus on that.

“We’ve put ourselves in a position that we control what will happen, if we keep winning then obviously the Premiers’ Plate is ours.”

But while Popovic insisted he has embraced the A-League finals system, the Wanderers coach believed if his side finished on top they would be worthy champions of Australia – regardless of who won the grand final.

“When you’re in Europe, you’re used to first (team) past the post (being crowned champions) and that’s the way it is there,” Popovic said.

“We in this country love a grand final, we love a finals series but if you’re on top after 27 rounds, well then you’re a worthy champion.”

Popovic said the victory over the Heart was even more pleasing given star Japanese import Shinji Ono was missing with a hamstring injury and the way the Wanderers’ finished off the match after a tight start was also a source of satisfaction for the Western Sydney mentor.

“In the second half I thought it was a dominant performance (by the Wanderers),” Popovic said.

“That second-half display, they just got stronger and stronger as the game progressed and we were playing against a team as well that’s desperate for a victory who have a very good home record.

“The way they dominated that second half, away from home, is really pleasing.”

The only sour note for the Wanderers was a quad injury suffered by Jerome Polenz who was substituted in the 28th minute.

But Popovic was confident he’d make a speedy recovery.

“I’m told it’s not serious so the medical staff will assess him tonight and obviously tomorrow once he wakes up and we’ll take the appropriate measures to make sure he gets back as soon as he can,” Popovic said.

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