Popovic hails another Wanderers milestone

Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic has put no limits on his team’s potential in Asia after the A-League grand finalists ticked off another famous achievement with an 11th-hour away-goals win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima on Wednesday.

After a 3-1 opening defeat last week, second half goals from Shannon Cole and Brendon Santalab - the second of which came only five minutes from full time - nudged the Wanderers in front of the Japanese champions to become only the second A-League club after Adelaide United to reach the quarter-finals.

Asked if his side could go all the way to the Asian title, Popovic said: “Now that we are in the final eight, you have to believe, there are only eight teams left. We have to believe we can win though to the semi-final but it is one step at a time.

"I know how well we can play at home. These players are very good players and now they have created some history for the club."

Popovic was quick to pay tribute to his players for their latest achievement in just the club’s second year of existence.

"It's only a short history for our club and we've had many highs, but that's got to be right up there," Popovic said. 

"After a week of adversity we had with the Grand Final and losing away from home, it was just a fantastic performance and a well-deserved result. Our fans deserve something like that."

Popovic refused to take credit as substitutes Cole and Tomi Juric made an impact, the former scoring the crucial opening goal.

"That is football isn’t it," he said. 

"You always make changes because you hope it will make a difference but it doesn’t always work, but today it came off and those players that came on were fantastic.

“At half-time it was about not forcing the issue. It was about remaining patient. We were controlling the game and our shape stayed the same.

“You have to respect them (Sanfrecce) because they have some very good players. They came here to play on the counter."

Popovic also reserved special praise for departing crowd favourite Shinji Ono who provided the assists for both goals in his final match prior to returning to Japan with J.2 side Consadole Sapporo.

"He was disappointed after the Grand Final like everyone was," Popovic said. 

"He was special tonight and you could see the quality that he has against the champions of Japan, to play that way. We'll always remember this night, that's for sure."