Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic has praised the character and application of his players, who refused to toss in the towel in Sunday's gallant 1-0 loss to Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium.
Playing their third match in eight days and with just a four-day break after Tuesday's insipid 3-1 defeat to Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park, the Wanderers fought tooth and nail with the in-form Reds, refusing to drop their heads after conceding a fourth-minute goal to Marcelo Carrusca and maintaining their focus after copping two yellow cards in the opening minutes.
At no stage did the wheels fall off, which pleased Popovic.
"We've had a very tough period," he said. "We've had six games in a very short period of time. On Tuesday, we fell away a little bit after the goal.
"(Against Adelaide) we conceded early. It's a real test of character for the players to concede so early in the game and they rose to the occasion.
"It was a much-improved performance as a team with the character they showed. Right up until the final whistle I was positive that we could get a goal.
"We blooded two 16-year-olds (Daniel Alessi and Alusine Fofanah), which is fantastic for them. There are good signs there."
The Wanderers best period came late in the first half when they peppered their front third and put Adelaide's defence on notice.
But with few exceptions, United goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic was not called upon to do an awful lot, an observation noted by Popovic.
"We probed, we got a lot opportunities on the edge of the box ... just that final ball really let us down," said the former Sydney United stalwart and Crystal Palace captain.
"We had a lot of opportunities with a 3 v 2 or 4 v 2, but we just didn't capitalise. The decision making on our final ball is something we really need to work on."
Not all of the Wanderers' ill fortune was of their own making.
It could have been a different result altogether had Carrusca not had the opportunity to poke home his early strike.
The Argentinean pounced on a loose ball on the back of a goal-line scrimmage, threading a sharp goal from a tight angle after Bruce Djite had stolen the ball out of diving Western Sydney goalkeeper Ante Covic's hands.
Television replays showed the ball appearing to be just out of bounds in the lead-up to Carrusca's strike.
Popvic's initial thought was that the ball was out, which would have resulted in a goal-kick to Covic or at worst a United corner.
"It's hard to see from the bench," he said. "We all felt the ball was out. But you'd hope the officials get that right so early in the game.
"They made a call on it and you can't change that."comments