Two-goal Santalab happy to play his role for Wanderers

Brendon Santalab would love to stay in the starting side for Western Sydney Wanderers now he is finally back there, but he said whatever coach Tony Popovic decides for the last-round game against Wellington Phoenix was fine with him.

Brendon Santalab Western Sydney Wanderers Tony Popovic

Brendon Santalab (left) is congratulated after netting against Central Coast Source: AAP

Santalab isn't silly. The last thing he is going to do is try to tell 'Popa' how to pick his side - that wouldn't go down well at all with the coach.

But the striker was delighted with his own contribution and the team's overall performance in beating Central Coast Mariners 4-1 at Pirtek Stadium on Friday night.

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"I was delighted to get two goals and, you know, especially a crucial goal at 1-1," Santalab told The World Game.

"I thought that was a very important goal for us and it's never easy to play the Mariners, they're young and enthusiastic and obviously they've got the class of Luis Garcia there as well, so it was nice to bounce back after they equalised at 1-1 and get that goal."

Romeo Castelen had put Wanderers up 1-0 before Garcia equalised. Santalab scored the next two and attacking midfielder Mitch Nichols chipped in with the final goal to finish off the wooden spooners.

Santalab has been used almost exclusively as a substitute this season and his performances have been outstanding. He has repeatedly come up with crucial goals off the bench.

But after Wanderers had gone goalless for two straight games Popovic shook things up by moving Mark Bridge from central striker back out to his preferred left wing and bringing Santalab in to start up front.

Asked afterwards if he would be disappointed if he now didn't start against Phoenix, Santalab replied: "No, definitely not. Popa will put a team out there that he wants to win the game and that will be his intent.

"I think I did enough tonight to start the game next week, but like I've said all along I'm happy with whatever role I play and tonight I started. If I don't start next week I'll just sit on the bench and come on and do my role as always.

"The main thing is that it was a great team performance tonight. I thought we dominated the game, which was very good, but we'll see what Popa decides on next week."

Nichols went to outright leading scorer for Wanderers this season, with 10. Bridge is on nine and Santalab has moved to eight.

The goals had recently dried up for the trio, with Santalab having contributed the one single goal from all three of them in six games before the clash with Central Coast.

It was clear when Popovic named his squad for the game that he was looking at changing things up. Left winger Jaushua Sotirio, who had started in five straight games, was omitted from the squad altogether, leading to speculation Bridge could move there and Santalab might start.

"I felt as though our performance last week against Victory (in a 2-0 loss) probably wasn't at our standard, especially the last 30 to 40 minutes of the game," Santalab said.

"We weren't ourselves. The intensity wasn't there and I think Popa wanted to shake things up a bit tonight and he got a great reaction.

"He might be saving Jaush for Wellington. It's something we don't know and I won't know as a player until I see the team, but we've got a great squad and there's a lot of competition for places all over the park and I think that's a great recipe for the Premiers' Plate and beyond.

"We've got great depth and whoever comes in can do the job."

Santalab said that although he loves to start he was OK with being described as a super sub.

"That's the way it has turned out and it must mean I'm doing something right," he said. "I'm not sick of it. It's something the fans have latched on to and when I go on off the bench I give my all and I've been fortunate enough to score a few goals this season, so I'm delighted.

"There was a lot of pressure on us tonight to go out and get back on track and win in front of our home fans, no doubt about that, and to perform in that fashion was a great confidence booster for us heading into the last round.

"We'd been getting into great positions to score recently, but not scoring, and sometimes it just takes a game like this to get you going again.

"It was great to see Mitch and Romeo score as well. Tonight we converted and we now need to take that form into the Wellington game."

The win took Western Sydney from fourth to first on the tight competition table and now they wait to see where they end up after the rest of the games in round 26.


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5 min read
Published 2 April 2016 at 10:58am
By Greg Prichard