Victory seeks “redemption” in ALW semifinal against Adelaide

Melbourne Victory A-League Women coach Jeff Hopkins is confident that the side he sends out against Adelaide United this Sunday will resemble little the unit that lost 3-0 to the Reds just two weeks ago.

Winless in their last five matches, it’s not unfair to say that Victory stumbled over the line and into the ALW finals places at the conclusion of the regular season. 

Forced to survive a number of nervy moments as they eked out a 0-0 draw that on the final day of the season, the reigning champions secured fourth-place on the table only thanks to a superior goal difference to fifth-placed Perth Glory.

In the fixture prior, Victory had travelled to face United at Hindmarsh Stadium and been comprehensively outplayed as Fiona Worts netted a hattrick and the Reds cruised to a comfortable win. 

Of course, with COVID-enforced postponements to the ALW fixture forcing his side – many of whom juggle football with outside working commitments – to effectively play more than half their season’s games in a month, prevailing circumstances were hardly conducive to Hopkins’ side tasting success. 

And the Welsh gaffer is confident that come Sunday, his side coming off a nine-day break, things will go differently than a fortnight ago. 

“I think you’ll see that our personnel will definitely have changed,” he said on Friday. 

“There are a couple of areas, especially midfield duels, that we lost [against Adelaide] and lost quite badly over there. It’s something that I was definitely not happy about. It’s something that the team has recognised they wanted to put right as well. 

“So, one, I think the attitude will be completely different. We’ll be going over there, rolling our sleeves up and be ready for a real battle. But also, Bungy [Claudia Bunge] will be back [the New Zealand international missed the first United fixture on international duty]. 

“As far as I know, we haven’t conceded a goal when Bunge and Brooke [Hendrix] have been together. Which is quite pleasing. 

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“Melina [Ayres] will be back and ready to play a big part. And I think AJ [Amy Jackson] will be as well. It could be a completely different lineup for us. 

“Our form coming into this isn’t fantastic but I think there are definite reasons and we understand the reasons why. We had a great run of I think four games hardly conceding a goal, winning games well and then a bit of fatigue crept in. 

“We’ve come out of that and I think, physically, we’re a lot better now but I think mentally as well, knowing that we can come through that period unscathed has set us up nicely. 

“We know what we’ve got to do this weekend. It’s down to us now to go there and to really show ourselves that we’re capable of putting in the performance that we know that we’re capable of. I think if we can do that I’m confident that we can go to Adelaide and win.”

Any wins, however, will have to be delivered without the services of Kyra Cooney-Cross after the Matidas’ attacker’s 57th-minute yellow card against Canberra resulted in a suspension for an accumulation of cautions. 

“We’ve got a squad. Players are in, players are out,” Hopkins said. 

“The girls were away for the Asian Cup and we had to deal with her and Courtney not being available. So obviously we’d love to have Kyra available but it’s not phasing us at all. We’ve got good quality players to come in.”

Under the new finals format, the winner of Sunday’s game will next week meet the loser of Friday night’s clash between first-placed Sydney FC and second-placed Melbourne City for the right to advance to the grand final. 

Having finished fourth, this means that Victory will have to win three away games (albeit one would be in Melbourne against City) if they are to repeat as ALW champions. But after seeing his side overcome the odds in last year’s playoffs, Hopkins isn’t overawed by the task at hand. 

“It doesn’t really phase us,” he said. “We were speaking about it yesterday, there are a few similarities to last year. Us losing at Sydney [in the last week of the 2020-21 regular season as Sydney won the premiership] and then going away to a team that had beaten us and beaten us quite well up in Brisbane. 

“[It’s] similar to us losing in Adelaide a couple of weeks ago and going back there this week. So there’s a little bit of redemption there for us in that game.”

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Header Image Credit: Melbourne Victory

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