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Mar 23, 2013

End of streak not end of road: Popovic

The record-breaking winning streak might be over, but the 1-1 draw with cross-town rivals Sydney FC will provide Western Sydney Wanderers with more valuable experience as the finals approach according to coach Tony Popovic.

Even with all the hype and build-up of the third Sydney derby, and the atmosphere created by the 19,585 supporters, the Wanderers were never overawed by the occasion.

The home side went down a goal early after Alessandro Del Piero capitalised on a first-half defensive error from Wanderers stand-in captain Nikolai Topor-Stanley.

But far from retreating into their shells, Western Sydney kept positive and Shannon Cole scored the equaliser in the 69th minute.

"To come from behind like that ... in such a great atmosphere, the players didn't crumble," Popovic said.

"The players did a great job and we will learn from this."

Injuries took their toll on the Wanderers with regulars Jerome Polenz (quad) and Aaron Mooy (knee) missing.

Recently re-signed Shinji Ono carried a hamstring injury into the match, and left the field limping in the second half which will add to the stresses Popovic faces leading into the finals.

Suspensions might also play a part, with Iacopo La Rocca in danger of spending some time on the sidelines after his send-off for an elbow on Sydney's Terry Antonis in the closing stages of the game.

The injuries and resultant reshuffle had a definite impact on the cohesion of the side.

They struggled to gain any real control of the game, especially in the first half.

Despite these setbacks, the Wanderers battled strongly throughout the match and how they respond to these challenges in the next few weeks will be the real test of just how far Popovic has brought this side in their short life.

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