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Popovic calls for Wanderers to lift

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 10/04/2016 Cathy Walshe

Western Sydney could be their own worst enemy when it comes to the A-League semi-finals if their last-round 2-0 win over Wellington Phoenix on Sunday is anything to go by.

On one hand, coach Tony Popovic was delighted with the way his team controlled the game, the win set up by Brendon Santalab's two first-half goals which brought his season's tally to 10.

"In general, I thought we restricted them quite well in terms of clear-cut opportunities," Popovic said afterwards.

However, Wellington were unlucky on a number of occasions, particularly Michael McGlinchey and Roly Bonevacia, who both had searing shots ricochet off the woodwork.

Popovic feels Western Sydney could have done better in shutting Wellington down.

"If they got anything, it was maybe from a lack of concentration or us giving the ball away."

Santalab's brace was his second in the space of a week and sealed second place on the ladder, earning the Wanderers an extra week's rest before they host a home semi-final at Pirtek Stadium on April 24.

Sunday's win was especially satisfying given that the Wanderers hadn't won or scored in their last three trips to Westpac Stadium, and had just two victories in their past 18 away matches.

Popovic said Western Sydney's return to the top flight, after winning just four games and finishing ninth last season, was tribute to the hard work of players and staff.

Wanderers finished just one point astray of Premiers Plate winners Adelaide United and ahead of third-placed Brisbane Roar on goal difference only.

"We've picked up 48 points, which is the second most that we've picked up, so we've had a fantastic season with all the new players that have come in, new staff - it's a credit to everyone," Popovic said.

Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick's eye has been caught by Western Sydney's increasingly impressive form, and he is convinced they've got the potential to make the grand final.

"The first thing is which squad (has) as many first 11 as possible fresh, not too injured, not suspended and they've got the right mind-set and momentum going into the finals.

"Knowing Tony Popovic the way I do, he seems to have those boys really primed and ready to go so I think they'll do well."

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