Victory looking to keep the positive vibes rolling against Glory

Such is the mind of a competitive athlete and coach, two losses on the trot can sometimes make it feel like the walls are closing in. So it’s no wonder that Melbourne Victory is feeling like a weight has been lifted following their first win of the A-League Women (ALW) season.

After entering the season widely tipped as one of the frontrunners for the title – which would make them the first side in A-Leagues’ history to go back-to-back-to-back – Victory started their campaign in ignominious fashion: losing their opening two games against league newcomers Western United and bitter rivals Sydney FC.

The defending ALW champions, though, were able to avoid three defeats on the bounce and finally get their first win of the 2022/23 campaign on the board last week by downing Wellington Phoenix 1-0 at Epping Stadium. 

Coach Jeff Hopkin’s side will now travel out west looking to rid themselves of a losing record at the expense of Perth Glory on Sunday evening in what will be the first time the hosts have played at their new pop-up-home at Macedonia Park. 

“The win was really important for us last week,” Hopkins said. “The whole group was pretty nervous and you could see that in the way that we approached the game. 

“The way I saw the game during the game was a lot different to how I viewed it afterwards. I think we definitely controlled the game. There was some perceived threat but it didn’t really show in any chances, really. 

“Myself, as well as the players, were really relieved to get their first win. The players have been a lot more relaxed, I think we’ve all been a bit more relaxed this week.”

This new air of reassurance counts doubly so for striker Melina Ayres, who, needing to take on a greater role in Victory’s attack following Catherine Zimmerman’s fracture fibula, got off the mark for the 2022/23 campaign when she netted what would prove to be the winner against the ‘Nix in first-half stoppage time. 

“She’s a different person this week,” Hopkins said. “She does have the tendency to be a little bit down on herself sometimes. She’s probably her own harshest critic, so I was really pleased for her to score the goal. 

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“I’ve been really pleased with her over the last couple of weeks. She’s still not at her best, but she’s really trying as hard as she can to be her best. I think week to week all we can ask of her is that she’s a little bit better each week.

“She definitely was last weekend, she’s trained really well this weekend and is looking confident, which is a big advantage to her.”

Coach Alex Epakis’ Glory, for their part, will be looking to grab their first win of the season when Victory comes to town, recording draws with Canberra United and the Newcastle Jets and a defeat at the hands of Adelaide United in their opening three weeks. 

Despite their lack of wins, however, Hopkins is wary of what his opponents on Sunday can do when firing on all cylinders. 

“I’ve watched all their games and there’s been a bit of good, a bit of bad, and a bit of ugly in there,” he said. “They’ve had a little bit of an up-and-down start, but we’re definitely not underestimating them. 

“They’ve got recruited pretty well. They play quite an aggressive style of play. They’ll press high, they’ll be right in your face. So we’ve worked quite hard this week on how we’re going to play and play out against them. 

“I feel the way that they defend, there’s definitely going to be space in certain areas of the pitch and we’ve worked hard to make sure that we understand what they’re all about.

“The areas that we need to play in, the areas that we definitely don’t need to play in and a few strategies to, hopefully, take advantage of the areas that we see as perceived weaknesses.”

After playing under scorching conditions against the Phoenix, Victory trained lightly this week, meaning that Tiff Eliadis and Gema Simon, who both suffered heat stroke in the win, will be available for selection.

Amy Jackson is likely another week or two away, while Emily Kos is available but unlikely to feature. Natalie Tathem was given the all-clear to resume full training on Thursday, something that Victory wasn’t anticipating, and will likely feature in the coming weeks. 

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Header Image Credit: Melbourne Victory


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