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Popovic thrilled with eight in a row

Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic was delighted to see his rookie side move top of the A-League by beating Central Coast 1-0 on Saturday.

Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic was delighted to see his rookie side move top of the A-League by beating Central Coast 1-0 on Saturday.

The result saw the new franchise claim their eighth victory in a row and leapfrog the Mariners into top spot in the standings.

The match had two key second-half turning points, firstly in the 52nd minute when Mariners goalkeeper Mathew Ryan missed a penalty, before substitute Labinot Haliti scored the decisive goal in the 81st minute.

Popovic thought the penalty was ‘soft’ and was glad the match wasn’t decided as a result of it, and he was quick to praise his side’s goal-scorer.

“Very, very pleased of course,” Popovic said of substitute Haliti’s winner.

The former Socceroo also noted the influence of the Wanderers’ substitutes.

“All the players that came on did a good job.”

“We found a way to hold to the ball a bit better which was a problem for us tonight.

“The combination that Labby (Haliti) played with Bridgey (striker Mark Bridge) was a fantastic move and a great goal.

“It was a great finish.”

On the move of Aaron Mooy back to the bench, despite his decisive goal against Perth last weekend, Popovic said the decision was tactical and not form related.

“It was just something we felt (we wanted to try) for this game. We wanted to put Iacopo (La Rocca) in there with Mateo (Poljak),” he said.

“Aaron is a fine talent and he is still developing, he has got a long way to go. He did what we expected when he came off the bench and he made and impact.”

Veteran goalkeeper Ante Covic also drew praise from ex-Crystal Palace assistant Popovic.

“He is outstanding, he is right up there with the best ‘keepers in this league, that is for sure,” Popovic said.

Covic, who in addition to saving the 52nd-minute penalty, also pulled off several crucial saves from close range, as the Mariners peppered the Western Sydney goal.

“Whenever a big game comes along he really stands up tall and he has got a real presence. He is a real leader on and off the field,” Popovic said.

“We are delighted to have him at our club.”

The Wanderers get a chance to extend their lead atop the ladder when they face the misfiring Wellington Phoenix next Sunday, but Popovic has assured fans his side will not be complacent.

“I’d be very worried if motivation was a problem,” he said.

“With complacency, that’s something you guys (the press) have asked me for eight weeks.

“Eight wins in a row, it shows they are not complacent.”

“They won’t be complacent his week.

“It doesn’t guarantee a result against Wellington. But I guarantee you they will be well prepared for that game.”

Sat 2 March, 2013
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