Popovic: Topor-Stanley injury changed the game

Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic said the injury to central defender Nikolai Topor-Stanley, and the resulting re-shuffle, was key to Brisbane getting back into the Hyundai A-League Grand Final.

Topor Stanley’s knee injury just after the hour mark meant highly effective central midfielder Iacopo La Rocca was pushed back into a central defensive role.

With no central defender on the bench, Wanderers were forced into the change. 

And from that point on Roar grabbed the ascendancy in midfield and were able to equalise as Besart Berisha's late header cancelled out Matthew Spiranovic's opener for Wanderers, sending the game into extra-time. 

And ultimately Brisbane would take that momentum into the extra 30 minutes as Henrique’s strike in the 108th minute saw them produce a 2-1 Grand Final victory. 

A rueful Popovic said after the game injuries can happen. 

"Yes, definitely. I think it just changed things. Changed the dynamic," he said.

"I thought La Rocca was doing a great job of controlling the midfield. In the start of the second half he was very good. 

"Nikolai [Topor Stanley] and Matty [Spiranovic] were doing a great job. But that happens. 

"Injuries happen. And it kind of gave them the ascendancy a bit after the goal. Then they scored with five minutes to go.

Popovic said he was proud of his players who he believed regrouped well after the equaliser from Brisbane by Besart Berisha. 

"And we arguably had the best chance of the game with Labi [Haliti] in extra time. It's 1-1 and you're one-on-one with the keeper. 

"But those are the sorts of small moments in big games." 

Nevertheless Popovic admitted he was more hurt this time than after last year’s Grand Final loss to Central Coast. 

He felt last year the Wanderers didn't deserve to win on the biggest day of the season. 

"Just had a chat with them now. It's a tough one. I'm sure they won't remember too many words I said," declared Popovic. 

"Very proud of the group. We got very close but unfortunately we didn’t win. 

"They’re hurting in that change-room but you’d expect that."