Popovic defends under-fire Polenz

WESTERN Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic has leapt to the defence of Jerome Polenz after the A-League referees boss declared the German should have been red-carded last weekend.

Referees director Ben Wilson on Monday confirmed Polenz should have been marched for his studs-up tackle on Adelaide United midfielder Awer Mabil on Friday night.
Polenz also stayed on the field a week earlier after a controversial challenge on Sydney FC forward Richard Garcia that was punished only with a free kick.
While Popovic concedes Polenz may have been fortunate to stay on the park in both instances he insists the gun defender is not a dirty player.
"The challenges were probably poorly timed and if the ref had deemed them differently there could have been a red card," Popovic said today.
"We certainly don't go out telling our players to hurt the opposition and if we're talking about that certain player, Jerome, there's no malice in his body.
"He's a very good player and I think his record speaks for itself in terms of his discipline. He's mistimed some tackles and that's something that he and all of us need to be careful of.
"We go out there to of course play hard every week and play good football at the same time."
Popovic said he hadn't spoken to Polenz personally about curbing his aggression but the squad had been warned against rash tackles.
"As a group we've addressed that we've just got to make sure that our timing is right and we're not clumsy in our challenges because you can obviously get punished for and that's something in general that we have to be careful of," he said.
After Wilson confirmed his whistle blowers got several decisions wrong last weekend, Popovic added of the standard of refereeing this season: "I think it's a tough job being a referee and that's obviously something the FFA is working hard on to improve.
"You could say that so far some teams have been unlucky with some decisions but that'll happen throughout the season and as long as they're trying to get better as a whole I think the clubs will be happy."
Meanwhile, Popovic says he's unsure whether Harry Kewell will turn out for Melbourne Heart in Friday's Round 5 clash.
"He's a class player, we don't know whether he'll play or not but if he does we expect to see Harry and his quality on the field and we'll be prepared for that and we'll do our very best to try and nullify him," Popovic said.
"I don't know what kind of shape he's in ... but we'll just prepare ourselves for this game and try and improve on and build on what we've been doing."
He added of Youssouf Hersi's chances of returning from injury on Friday: "It's a tough one to call really, he's a lot better, he's doing some work today and it's a real day-by-day proposition.
"I'd say tomorrow we'll have a much better idea whether he has a chance for a game."