Battle-hardened City ready for Sydney FC ALW test

Melbourne City A-League Women coach Rado Vidošić believes that his side’s challenging slate of opening fixtures will place them in good stead to challenge high-powered Sydney FC.

Initially scheduled to take place in Melbourne on Sunday, an Australian Open-driven dearth of personnel to broadcast the contest forced the relocation of the 2019-20 Grand Final re-match from Victoria to New South Wales midweek; the game now set to take place at Jubilee Stadium on Saturday afternoon as part of a double-header with the Sky Blues’ A-League Men side. 

Though driven by logistical circumstances well out of their control, it was a boost to a Sydney outfit hardly lacking in momentum heading into the fixture, with coach Ante Juric’s side more than a game clear atop the ALW table and possessing a colossal goal difference of +22 as the campaign passes its halfway point. 

Despite losing attackers Remy Siemsen and Cortnee Vine to Matildas duty, the three-time ALW champions put a hapless Canberra United to the sword last week: Chilean attacker María José Rojas netting a hat-trick that was supplemented by goals from Ally Green, Princess Ibini and, Rachel Lowe.

City, for their part, were made to work much harder to take three points in their visit to Adelaide United that same day; absorbing a sterling opening half performance from the Reds before eventually wresting control of the game in the second stanza and stealing a 1-0 win thanks to a goal from Rhianna Pollicina.

Nonetheless, though he no doubt would have gladly accepted a Sydney-style procession against the Reds, Vidošić believes that his side consistently being tested against the ALW’s stronger sides bodes well for his side heading into Saturday’s clash. 

Thanks to the conference-style schedule the competition adopted heading into the season, City has played four matches against the sides that make up the ALW top-four heading into this week – two games apiece against Melbourne Victory and Adelaide – and have taken three wins from those clashes. Their lone defeat of the season came against Victory in round two when despite taking a first-half lead, they were unable to prevent Victory from running over the top as the game progressed and lost 2-1. 

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Sydney, in contrast, is yet to play a game against any of their compatriots in the top-four; a 3-1 win over Newcastle Jets in round one the most well-credentialled of their victories thus far on the campaign. 

“We played against four games against top four teams,” he told journalists on Thursday. “[Sydney] hasn’t played a top-four team yet. So it’s still a bit unrealistic to measure their success. Out of seven games, they’re going to play six in Sydney. They haven’t been outside New South Wales, and they haven’t played the team in the top four.”

However, calling a spade a spade, the City gaffer was still quick to acknowledge the crushing manner of his foe’s win over Canberra last week. 

See Also: What constitutes a good game of A-Leagues football?

“It was a very dominant performance against Canberra,” he said. “I thought that would be the biggest test so far but you know, the way they played and the way they score the goals and the way they controlled that game, especially after they scored the second, it was just unbelievable.

“So they are a very, very strong, full of confidence team. 

“But as I said, it’s not so much about what they have done so far. I think against us, it should be much, much harder for them. So we’ll see how it goes.”

With the confirmation of the Matildas 23-player squad for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup — which the Australians will commence against Indonesia on Friday evening — both sides are set to be without important figures on Saturday. The aforementioned Siemsen and Vine will be absent for Sydney, while teenage attacker Holly McNamara is set to miss for City. 

The visitors, however, will be boosted by the return of defender Winonah Heatley to their ranks, after the 20-year-old was one of the unsuccessful two, the other being Canberra’s Karly Roestbakken, that attended the Matildas’ pre-tournament camp in the UAE only to miss out on the final squad. 

See Also: Focus shifts from performance to results as Matildas eye Asian Cup success

She will likely slot back into the City XI alongside captain Emma Checker, who herself will have a point to prove against the league’s highest-powered offence after being left out of Tony Gustavsson’s Asian Cup squad despite an apparent lack of central defenders in the squad. 

“Every game is different, said Vidošić. “It comes down to maybe the first mistake or maybe a call that the referee makes and then suddenly you’re one-nil down or you’re one-nil up.

“But definitely, something that are proud of is that we played two games against Melbourne Victory, two games against Adelaide, and we really played well, we played good football. 

“Especially against Melbourne Victory in the derby, I think that was a key point for us in our season. We realize that you know, hang on, we are a good team and we can compete against anyone. 

“So now this is going to be probably the biggest test so far because we’re playing against a team that is high in confidence and full of top quality players – they had a couple more players marked for the national team. They are young, they’re exciting, they’re mobile. Technically they’re good, tactically they’re excellent and they’re coached by an excellent coach. So it’s a great challenge for us.

“We’re going to be defending as high up the pitch as we can. We’re going to try to force them to play a different football style than what they’re used to. And you know when we are defending, we will defend with all 11 players.

“We need to have a great level of concentration. Attention to the smallest details in a microgame as they call it. Everyone has to be involved.”

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Header Image Credit: Melbourne City

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