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Santalab won't sacrifice aggressive game

AAP logoAAP 9/11/2016 Emma Kemp

Western Sydney striker Brendon Santalab has pledged not to sacrifice his aggressive playing style after explaining himself over another contentious A-League tackle.

Sunday's 2-2 away draw with Perth doubled as another demonstration of Santalab's intelligent yet no-holds-barred game that's already yielded four goals in five games.

Just before the hour mark, the 34-year-old veteran ghosted into the box to pick up a precise ball from Argentine playmaker Nicolas Martinez and slot home the equaliser.

But in stoppage-time, he was criticised for a reckless sliding tackle on Glory's Joseph Mills that earned a yellow card but was perceived by many as worthy of a straight red.

Santalab defended the challenge as a "desperate run back for the team" to win the ball.

"There's never intention there to get the player, but he was very quick and he's taken a touch out in front and I wasn't able to get the ball," Santalab told AAP.

"Unfortunately I got his legs and got a yellow card.

"I just find people question the referee too much ... had it been a red card I would have probably walked off and said `Ok, well I need to accept that'."

Santalab, who also escaped a red card four weeks ago for a late challenge on Adelaide's James Holland, admitted it was risky playing on the edge but insisted there was no malice his approach.

"I haven't been sent off in the A-League since the day I started, that should give an indication of how I play and that there's no intent to hurt," he said.

"I'm aggressive, I play with determination and want to win for my team - it comes down to winning mentality."

Part of that was the creativity of Martinez who, after scoring the Wanderers' quickest-ever goal within 30 seconds, used his first full 90 minutes to set up the second for Santalab.

Martinez is playing an increasingly influential role as his fitness improves and there's a feeling the pint-sized marquee could be the import playmaker the club have been yearning for since Shinji Ono's departure.

"Nico brings that X-factor, he can turn a game very quickly and he's always pulling things out of the hat when people least expect it," Santalab said.

Which attacking combination coach Tony Popovic chooses for Saturday's away clash with Melbourne Victory will likely remain a mystery until kick-off, given the coach's penchant for 11th-hour changes.

Super-sub Santalab has started the last two courtesy of Kerem Bulut's late scratchings and would like another go.

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