Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic might still be smarting over the disallowed goal that cost his side victory against Melbourne City on Saturday night but he is confident his team will rebound to scale new heights in the coming months.
The match at AAMI Park was locked at 2-2 when a quickly taken free-kick was received by Mark Bridge, who duly put the ball past City keeper Thomas Sorensen.
But referee Jarred Gillett disallowed the goal, saying he wrongly re-started play before City captain Patrick Kisnorbo was able to resume his position in defence after being spoken to by the official. Furious Wanderers players and coaching staff protested but the decision remained.
With only a few minutes left in regulation time, Aaron Mooy was able to find Harry Novillo, who created space before bending a superb strike past Andrew Redmayne, sealing the three points for City and sending the Wanderers to second on the A-League ladder, below Brisbane Roar on goal difference.
But with a home Sydney derby this Saturday night – and with only three points between the Wanderers and Sky Blues – Popovic is sure his team will re-group and begin its charge to regain top spot.
“We can certainly improve a lot more, there’s no doubt about that. When we started the season, in the first three games, we didn’t win a game. Since then, we didn’t lose until now and it’s been a really quick rise in terms of our play,” he said. “You’d have to envisage that the cohesion and fluency will only get better come the second half of the season and I’m expecting to see our football improve. Hopefully that will show in the results.”
While the Wanderers dominated for large patches of play, their failure to finish key chances again proved to be critical. However, Popovic maintained that the positive of his team creating the chances outweighed the negative of bad finishing.
“You want to take your chances, but you’re delighted you can create them, regardless of how the game is going,” he said. “We conceded three very good goals from two very good individuals. We didn’t get carved open but I thought we played a really big part in a very good game.”
Surprisingly, Popovic opted against starting Romeo Castelen, arguably the Wanderers’ best player this season. However, the Dutchman made a suitable impression off the bench and is likely to stay there for the derby.
“He was fantastic. That’s what you hope for from your subs, that they come on an make an impact,” Popovic said. “He played a big part in the equaliser and he had a great chance with a one-on-one against the goalkeeper.”
The Wanderers have not been linked with much activity during the January transfer window but Popovic said it was still possible something could happen.
“We’re not actively seeking anything but you have to keep your eye out and just see what is out there,” he said. “If there is something we need or something comes available, then we’ll consider it.”