WESTERN Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic has praised the mental strength of his players after they turned around a 1-0 half-time deficit to defeat Brisbane Roar 2-1 on Sunday.
The Wanderers struggled to compete with Roar in the first half, failing to create any clearcut chances and conceding a Mitch Nicholls goal in a forgettable performance.
A much more dynamic display in the second period reaped rewards, however, with goals from Mark Bridge and Youssouf Hersi giving the Wanderers their first ever come-from-behind victory.
Popovic said after the match that no matter what he said at half-time, it was the players who had to wrestle momentum from the A-League champions on the pitch.
"We never had the ball (in the first half) and we had to do a lot of excessive running that we didn't want to do," Popovic said.
"But that's partly down to Brisbane's quality in possession and us maybe being a little bit rattled, in terms of not doing the things we're supposed to do.
"We had a chat about that at half-time but it wasn't so much what I said, as what the players did.
"The players identified what we could improve and they showed that. We won the ball a lot higher up. We started to dominate the midfield. And then we started creating chances.
"And once we start doing that, on our day we can compete with anyone."
Popovic said that despite Brisbane's lowly position on the A-League ladder, they were still a tough side to face.
"The first half wasn't good, by us. But you've got to give Brisbane credit as well," Popovic said.
"Maybe they've been struggling so far this year to get to the heights that they were at, but they've still got match winners.
"They've still got great players. Great individuals. And we struggled to cope in the first half. The second half was a big turnaround and it just shows the character and belief that the players have.
"There's a lot of belief in that group and they believed at half-time that if we could improve, we had a good chance to go on and win the game. And in the end they did and deserved it," he said.
The Wanderers manager also credited Shinji Ono's intelligence to help create his side's second goal.
Ono retreated from an offside position as Hersi advanced to collect the ball, creating confusion for Roar defenders as they waited for play to be stopped.
As Ono didn't attempt play at the ball, the referee didn't blow his whistle.
"That's his quality isn't it?" Popovic said. "Knowing where he is, and if he was in the offside position knowing to leave the ball.
"They're those little things that people overlook, but a man of his quality can see that, and in the end it resulted in the goal."