Popovic defends Santalab omission

It was a case of déjà vu for Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday as they once again suffered heartbreak at Spotless Stadium.

Despite dominating the first half, the red and black couldn’t score and were made to pay in the second half as Central Coast Mariners walked away with a 2-0 victory.

Yet to win at Spotless Stadium, Wanderers coach Tony Popovic admitted his side is taking time to acclimatise and is struggling to turn good performances into wins.

“It’s a story of the season, certainly at home. We’re struggling to get a win at our home venues,” he said post-game.

“Today we certainly should have won this match.”

Playing without a recognised striker, Popovic was quick to defend his decision to leave Brendon Santalab on the bench and play Mitch Nichols up front.

“If we’re going to clutch at straws and say that’s the reason we didn’t win we’ve got some issues,” he said.

“We thought it worked quite well in the first half, we created our chances.”

Santalab would come on after an hour with Popovic forced to clarify why he was left on the bench after his start last week which saw him snag a brace.

“Many different reasons, a lot about what’s coming up, a lot about the fact he didn’t start in six weeks,” Popovic said.

“He hasn’t got an injury so to speak but Brendon is Brendon he plays at 100 miles an hour.”

In a game of two very different halves, Mariners coach Paul Okon saw his side rally from a poor opening 45 minutes to turn the match on its head and he revealed he had little to do with it.

“I’m not going take the credit for the second half, it was more about what we talked about before the game and reinforcing that (at the break),” he said.

The 2-0 win was the Mariners third in a row and with finals around the corner, Okon admitted it’s now or never for his side.

“I don’t think we’re at the stage where we can perform so well and not win,” he said.

Though still ninth on the ladder, Central Coast are just two points out of the top six and Okon feels his side isn’t getting the recognition they deserve.

“I just get the feeling that there really isn’t anyone out there that thinks the Mariners can play football,” he said.

“The discussion is always about our poor the opposition were and not how good the Mariners played. I think the way we’re playing we should be given a little bit more credit for.”

Featured image credit: Steve Christo

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A football fanatic and journalism student who won't leave you wondering about any Wanderers news this season as I cover all things Red and Black for The Football Sack.