Red card killed Wanderers' season: Popovic
Jaushua Sotirio's sending-off in extra time killed off Western Sydney's hopes in Friday's A-League elimination final, coach Tony Popovic says.
Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic has rued Jaushua Sotirio's extra-time red card as the moment his side's A-League finals hopes went down the drain.
The season is over for the Wanderers after they were beaten 6-5 in a penalty shootout by Brisbane Roar in Friday night's action-packed elimination final at Suncorp Stadium, with the two sides level at 1-1 after extra time.
Young winger Sotirio, who entered the fray as a 87th minute substitute, was a key figure in the madness. Seconds after he came on, he was shown a yellow card for a foul on Brandon Borrello.
Then, in the 103rd minute, he was given his marching orders by referee Jarred Gillett for clattering into Corey Brown but it was his busy attacking work in between that had Popovic convinced he was the player that could have made the difference.
"For me, the turning point was Jaush being sent off," he said.
"We missed the player that really could have hurt them and got us the win.
"We could see his fresh legs and speed was hurting Brisbane.
"Unfortunately we missed those opportunities once Jaushy went off.
"It's very difficult after that, you've got tired bodies and we lacked that spark once he was off the park."
Just before the end of regulation time Sotirio blazed over the crossbar from close range after being played in by Brendon Santalab but Popovic said it was unfair to pin the loss on that moment.
"We can look at it that way, but I think first half we were excellent and we could have had a couple more goals, which would have been fair," he said.
"Second half, we made a mistake and they punished us on the counter with their equaliser.
"They had chances, we had chances - it could have gone either way. Someone always has to lose and unfortunately for us, it was us tonight."
The Wanderers still have an AFC Champions League campaign to focus on, with a must-win clash against Japanese powerhouse Urawa Red Diamonds to come in Saitama on Wednesday.
"That's the challenge we have. We have to pick ourselves up, get on a flight Sunday night and we want to do our club proud," Popovic said.
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