Perth coach Tony Popovic has refused to get caught up in the hype surrounding his exciting young winger Chris Ikonomidis after the 23-year-old lit up the pitch in Glory’s first home win of the season.
Ikonomidis and Andy Keogh previewed a potentially lethal partnership, with the youngster providing the assist for the veteran striker’s opening goal in the 2-1 win over Brisbane Roar on Saturday night.
Keogh’s strike on 15 minutes, and an own goal by Connor O’Toole, was enough to seal the points for the home side, who had to dig deep after a late penalty by Adam Taggart and a red card to Tomislav Mrcela threatened to upend the result.
But Popovic dampened talk of rushing the six-capped Ikonomidis into the national team ahead of the Asian Cup in January.
"It’s too early to talk about that,” Popovic said of the former Lazio and Wanderers player who also scored in last week's 3-2 win over Melbourne Victory.
“We want to give credit to the players but let’s not straight away talk about Socceroos because someone has one good game.
“You’ve got to earn a Socceroos shirt and I think he has the potential to be there, he has quality but there’s work to do and he has to keep improving if he wants to get in there.”
Popovic was more forthcoming about his late recruit immediately after the final whistle telling Fox Sports "he's a real talent".
"He’s a young player that will get a lot better as the year goes on. He hasn’t played a lot of football in the last three or four months – a great talent and you can see that they’re (Keogh and Ikonomidis) starting to link up well.
“I just think overall as a team it was a very good performance, another improvement. We go home with the three points and, yes, things to work on but we’re very pleased tonight."
Popovic was just as delighted to talk up the work of Keogh, 32, who might have grabbed a brace but for an extraordinary double save by Roar goalkeeper Jamie Young. The Irishman has scored in all three opening rounds, ensuring the WA outfit remains undefeated.
“(Keogh) looks a threat and it’s up to us to keep giving him the service” the coach said. “Players are starting to understand each other better, the combinations are starting to work.
“We forget quickly he missed 12 weeks of preseason with an injury, where I was surprised he was even able to feature in the first game. He’s been outstanding and long may it continue.”
Glory, who currently sit on top of the table with Sydney FC on 7 points, face a tricky away game to Adelaide United next Sunday.