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Apr 29, 2022   |  10:53PM AET

Post-match reaction: Popovic

Post-match reaction: Popovic

Melbourne Victory Head Coach Tony Popovic praised his team’s character after a 3-1 win over the Wellington Phoenix on Friday night.

An action-filled encounter at AAMI Park saw Victory guarantee itself a top-three finish in the Isuzu UTE A-League.

Nick D’Agostino and Marco Rojas scored either side of a Jake Brimmer penalty as Victory extended its unbeaten league run to 14 games – a Club record.

Speaking at his post-match news conference, Popovic discussed the game, the VAR controversy and his side’s growth.

on the game…
“I thought it was very good, very good in difficult conditions. We started so well, brightly, then they’re always dangerous on the break, we knew that, they’d be dangerous in transition and then we gave away that penalty with Joshy’s (Brillante) handball, Ivan (Kelava) made the save and then obviously things happened after that and there was another penalty, but we probably, not that we lost control, but we probably stopped playing the way we were in the first 20 (minutes). There was a bit of anxiety, a bit of frustration, started forcing the passes against a team that’s playing very deep and I thought second half we regained that composure and totally dominated and scored some wonderful goals, I thought the first goal from our own box and the third one was an outstanding team goal.”

on VAR…
“Well the first one is a handball, for us that is, with Josh’s, it’s a handball, it’s just a question is it in or out, I can’t tell but if they deemed it in, I guess it’s in. And then the second one, Broxy (Leigh Broxham) wins the ball, I still don’t see how that’s a penalty, but when you see the referee’s there for such a long time, usually my belief is that there’s not enough there to change your mind and to change the decision so, that’s a frustration with that and I think there were a couple in the second half as well. We scored a goal and then it came back to see whether it was handball or not. Frustrating for the amount of time it takes definitely because unfortunately it builds anxiety and frustrations amongst the players so the game, there’s more anger amongst the players because of these moments that last for so long, so make the decision, make it quickly and move on. I’ve always maintained that and we’ve seen this has happened before here with Melbourne City and Central Coast, it took forever, if we can fix that then that will obviously help the situation.”

on maturity…
“I thought we showed that from the beginning of the second half. Everyone composed themselves again at half-time and you could see we totally controlled it in the second half. You’re always wary the danger on the break from Wellington because they have some good attacking players and set-pieces they’re always dangerous but we limited those opportunities very well and I thought we showed some great maturity in the second half.”

on growth…
“I believe there’s been growth throughout all the stages – through pre-season and we started the season so well and then if you remember Rai (Marchan) got sent off here against Perth in was it Round 3, and we fell away in the second half, we had some old habits there and lost the game quite comfortably in the end and the response was excellent in Adelaide, we won. The players have had challenges, winning the cup, big challenges to try and play the league and the cup amongst COVID issues and then we fell away for 10 days and then we picked up again, then we had to travel to Japan and we’ve picked up again. We’ve grown throughout this journey and there’s a lot more growth to come with this group, hopefully we’ll see more signs of that against Sydney FC.”

on Matt Spiranovic and Brendan Hamill…
“Matty, we’ll see. It’s nothing serious with Matty but with his history we’ve got to be wary and Brendan, it was another challenge, he pulled out today not feeling well with a bug so we had to change some things around last minute. I thought Broxy stepped in and did a fantastic job for us.”