Popovic's destined for greater things

IT'S the players who usually grab the headlines and adoration: a Lionel Messi, David Beckham or Alessandro Del Piero.

Even on a more modest level, Australia's own Harry Kewell. Not last week.

It was all about Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic before Sunday's A-league soccer blockbuster against the Central Coast Mariners at Parramatta Stadium.

Japanese import Shinji Ono got some ink as star striker, but Popovic was top of the pops. Defender Adam D'Apuzzo said Popovic could be the next Socceroo coach, or boss of a top European club one day.

Popovic said little.

And he wasn't saying a lot more after Sunday's 2-0 loss to leaders, the Mariners.

The visitors won thanks to a Daniel McBreen double — a strike in the first half and another a minute from the end, after referee Chris Beath controversially ruled no penalty was needed after the Wanderers' Mark Bridge went down in the box.

Beath had enhanced the crowd's us-against-the-world mentality in just the 26th minute.

Wanderer Joey Gibbs was hauled down by the last defender, but Beath brandished a yellow card when perhaps a red one was due.

Then the hosts' Jason Trifiro was dismissed for a high challenge on Nick Montgomery in the 55th minute, that earning a second yellow card.

Popovic's reaction to what he'd seen? He had a short spray at the referee.

"In general, his performance was terrible," Popovic said.

"Not to talk about the two yellows — they might have warranted a yellow on each occasion — but overall he was very poor. I thought he was through on goal (Bridge), he's interpreted it different."

Then Popovic became his measured self again, not giving his players any public sprays — he never does.

"The result is disappointing for us; the fine margins didn't really go our way to change the game but when we had 10 men, the boys kept going and we had a few opportunities," he said. "I couldn't be disappointed today with the performance, not one little bit. I thought we started the game very well and we pretty much dominated the possession and looked comfortable.

"When you're playing the league leaders, you've got to try and make the most of limited opportunities because you don't get very many."

The Wanderers' next opportunity comes against the Wellington Phoenix in New Zealand this Sunday, and they stay a clear fourth on 23 points..

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