A-League Women Media Wrap

With three games tomorrow, Impetus’ Ben Gilby and Kieran Yap heard from head coaches Jeff Hopkins, Alex Epakis, Gemma Lewis, and Catherine Cannuli. In addition, three players – Tash Rigby, Leena Khamis, and Alex Hyunh give their views. (15/1/22).

PERTH GLORY:

Above: It’s been another tough week for Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis (arms outstretched) Photo: Kris Goman.

Alex Epakis on COVID and Injuries:

Perth Glory’s preparations for tomorrow’s game at Newcastle Jets have been hit by a COVID outbreak which includes three players, and overnight UK time today also claimed head coach Alex Epakis.

He is currently self-isolating in accordance with directives from NSW Health and will not travel with the group to Sunday’s game against Newcastle Jets at No.2 Sportsground.

Assistant Coach Stef Busso will take temporary charge of coaching duties in Epakis’ absence.

On top of this news, the club are also without key offensive players Cyera Hintzen and Susan Phonsongkham for the next couple of weeks due to injury.

Speaking to the media yesterday before he tested positive for COVID, Epakis emphasized the importance of cutting down on set-piece concessions in the game against the Jets.

“Conceding goals from set pieces is a big thing. We’ve conceded 45 corners over our games this season.

“We’ve only conceded two goals from them which is not so bad from a numbers perspective, but we’re not happy that we are conceding so many corners to start with.

“That comes down to decision making under pressure and is not just on the defence, it’s on the whole team. If we don’t give the opposition these opportunities with set-pieces then we’re not under pressure.

With his team having taken just one point from their last three games, he sought to emphasize the background to those results. “We had to sit out for three weeks. Opposition teams were able to continue building momentum in that time. We then had to play 20% of the season in three days, which was always going to be a challenge.

“I think that if we were able to play those three games [Adelaide United, Canberra United, and Sydney FC] over separate weeks, the performances would have been different. That isn’t getting away from the fact that we didn’t play well against Sydney.

“Sydney FC are top of the table because they are the most consistent team in the competition. You have to give credit where credit is due for that performance.

Perth has been forced to build largely new squads for both of the past two seasons due to COVID-related issues. With the majority of this season’s new arrivals coming in on two-year deals, the club is aiming to put together some consistency in their squad, something which Epakis emphasizes the importance of.

“A lot of Sydney’s team have been together for the last four years or longer if you look at local state teams. You can’t get away from the benefits of having a team together for a long period of time.”

In terms of focuses in training this week, the Western Australian side’s head coach pointed out the need to avoid self-inflicted pressure.

“Conceding goals from set pieces is a big thing. We’ve conceded 45 corners over our games this season.

“We’ve only conceded two goals from them which is not so bad from a numbers perspective, but we’re not happy that we are conceding so many corners to start with.

“That comes down to decision making under pressure and is not just on the defence, it’s on the whole team. If we don’t give the opposition these opportunities with set-pieces then we’re not under pressure.

Epakis’ mind has turned to this weekend’s clash with the Newcastle Jets, despite the Covid-19 challenges.

“Newcastle is a really aggressive, strong team. They have been together for a number of years which helps to build that cohesion. We acknowledge that and know we need to match them from a physical side. We know we can match it from a footballing side.

“We have to be aggressive for the whole 90 minutes.”

Perth Glory’s preparations for Sunday have been impacted by injuries as well as COVID.

“We’ve been managing hamstring tightness that Lisa [De Vanna] has had. She wants to play with explosive pace so we need to time her return, minutes, and load as best as possible to be effective not just this week but in the coming weeks too.

“Unfortunately we have picked up some injuries and the loading with those three games in a week was a factor. We’ve lost Cyera Hintzen and Susan Phonsongkham for the next couple of weeks.

“We’ll do everything we can to get them back sooner rather than later. It gives others an opportunity now to do the job as best as possible.

Leena Khamis Comes In:

Above: Leena Khamis pictured after scoring for Western Sydney Wanderers in 2019, just one of her previous clubs from a stellar career. Photo: Western Sydney Wanderers.

In order to boost what Epakis has called a “skinny squad” at present, the club have brought in Leena Khamis on a short-term deal.

Khamis has made more than 120 Liberty A-League appearances during spells with Sydney FC, Canberra United, and most recently, Western Sydney Wanderers, for whom she scored two goals in ten games last season.

Her domestic honours include two Premierships and one Championship title, plus a Golden Boot in 2009, while at international level, the 35-year-old has 25 Matildas caps to her name and was part of the squad which won the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2010.

“I still had the drive and passion to go on and play the 2022 season, but unfortunately wasn’t given the opportunity,” she said.

“Alex got in contact with me and we had a really good chat regarding the team and how I could possibly help out.

“I think these ladies are a special group. They have a really good chance to push for Finals this season and I hope to achieve it with them. We aim to play Semi-Finals football because based on history, anything can happen once you’re there.”

Perth Glory’s head coach highlighted the qualities that Khamis can bring to Glory’s squad in the short term: “I am really pleased and excited to have Leena on board over the next few weeks.

“She has already had an instant impact on the team and training environment. Leena brings a priceless amount of experience and a competitive attitude and that will certainly add to our competitiveness and goals over the coming weeks.

“It’s very unfortunate to be without some players who have done well for us so far this season, but I know Leena is relishing the opportunity to provide a big impact for us.”

Rigby: We Know What We Have To Get Better At

Above: Perth Glory captain Tash Rigby in action against Sydney FC last weekend. Photo: Kris Goman

Also speaking to the media yesterday was Perth Glory captain Tash Rigby who highlighted the importance of putting right the wrongs from last week’s performance against Sydney FC.

Addressing this week’s COVID outbreak in their North Sydney hub, Rigby, with typical tongue-in-cheek humour observed: “Yeah, obviously it’s not like a fairytale at the moment, but the players and staff that we have lost [with COVID] are not too ill. It’s disappointing, but it was always going to happen in this environment.

“The situation is not too detrimental to us in terms of personnel. We’ve got an amazing depth to our squad this year, which is a help.

“We’ve been coming even closer together to support each other through this time. We are taking it day by day at the moment.”

Going into Sunday’s game, Perth has conceded eight goals in their last three games, four of which came last weekend against league leaders Sydney FC. The skipper highlighted the difficulties experienced against the Sky Blues and the work that has been done this week in trying to right those wrongs.

“The Sydney game was a super tough one. Without trying to make excuses, it was our third game in a week, so it was taxing on the body. Sydney played an amazing game and they had an amazing team.

We have reviewed the game and we’re ready to move on. We need to support each other off the ball more and focus on playing out from the back carefully.

“We were exposed from our goal kicks against Sydney and have to be positioned well in wide areas. [Additionally] we need to shorten our [defensive] lines.

“There have been some individual mistakes and we’ve worked on that and we are looking at improving that mindset. We have adapted well, acknowledged what went wrong, and move now to take the next game head-on.”

MELBOURNE VICTORY:

Above: Melbourne Victory head coach Jeff Hopkins. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

For Kieran Yap’s in-depth article on head coach Jeff Hopkins’ press conference ahead of his team’s game with Western Sydney Wanderers, click here: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/01/14/i-think-this-is-a-big-game-for-us-and-the-players-realize-that/

WELLINGTON PHOENIX:

Above: Saskia Vosper, one of the Phoenix players that is likely to miss most of tomorrow’s game with Brisbane. Photo: Wellington Phoenix.

Gemma Lewis On Missing Key Players Ahead of Brisbane Clash

The Phoenix could be without as many as three regular members of their XI for Sunday’s seventh-round match against Brisbane Roar in Wollongong.

Forward Kelli Brown has been ruled out of the match, another first-choice player is in major doubt and left back Saskia Vosper may only be able to play limited minutes after missing last week’s match against Melbourne City with a groin strain.

“It’s been a bit of a tough week to be honest,” Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis told media on Friday.

“At one point this week it was looking like the team was pretty much going to self-select itself by who’s available and who can get out on the field. Touch wood we’re better now than we were looking towards the start of the week.”

Brown is unavailable after suffering a head knock against Melbourne City. “Obviously she has quite an extensive history with concussion so we have to take it really seriously. We didn’t want to risk anything so we ruled her out for this week so now she’s with the docs and she’ll go through the clear to play process. We don’t actually know how long she’ll be out for yet.”

Lewis is hoping Vosper will be cleared to play some minutes against Brisbane, while there was a “big question mark” over the availability of another player.

“I’m not going to say who it is…out of respect for her and the team, but you’ll notice in the line-up as it’d be a decent loss for us.”

The Phoenix are looking to build on their performance against City last Sunday.

“We had way better possession, we had way better pass completion rate, we had the most passes we had in the opposition half…so there are areas we were working on that we’ve been competing better at. But ultimately for us a key metric is us being able to score goals.”

Wellington hasn’t found the back of the net since Ava Pritchard scored the team’s historic first goal against the Newcastle Jets in round two.

Since opening the season with a well-deserved draw against the Western Sydney Wanderers, the Phoenix have suffered five straight defeats, but three of them have come against the competition’s top two sides, Sydney FC and Melbourne City.

The Brisbane Roar sit just two places and three points above the Nix in eighth and are coming off a 1-0 home defeat to the Wanderers in round six.

Gemma Lewis is wary of her players getting carried away with thinking they have a great chance of picking up another point.

“They need to be mindful of not being complacent, not thinking that this is going to be a way easier game than City because actually it’s a different match-up. Brisbane have pace in the flanks (and) we’ve seen how we deal with pace in the flanks at times, it’s a little bit of our Achilles heel. You cannot tell me that they’re not going to be targeting us for three points and throwing everything at this game.”

Lewis says her players will be doing the same. “It is a game we want to get something out of but we’re still going to be the underdogs. But at the same time they’ve struggled in games so there’s opportunities there for us.”

The match has been brought forward two hours to help the A-Leagues’ broadcast partner, which is experiencing staffing issues as a result of the Omicron outbreak in New South Wales.

Playing in the heat of the day will be a further test of the Phoenix’s high-energy pressing game.

“It’s not looking like it’s going to be the hottest day on earth…but it is a little bit of a worry for us.”

WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS:

Alex Hyunh Back At Wanderers

Artwork: Western Sydney Wanderers

Western Sydney Wanderers today confirmed the signing of defender Alex Huynh until the end of the Liberty A-League season.

Huynh returns to the Wanderers after a recent stint overseas which saw her make appearances for Serie A side Napoli as well as Danish Elitedivisionen club Fortuna Hjørring.

An experienced defender and proud Western Sydney local, Huynh will add depth to the Wanderers squad. Head coach Catherine Cannuli praised the return of Huynh.

“We’ve had Alex in with us before, she’s a Western Sydney girl and she was training with us once she returned back from overseas. We had a spot left in the squad and I think it’s been a great addition. She’s a great person and a great footballer to be around in our environment.”

Huynh said she was delighted to once again represent her hometown club. “I love coming back here, it’s like my fourth season playing at the Wanderers so it feels like home when I come back.

“I’ve spent a season in Napoli and a season in Denmark and with time overseas, you come back with a lot of experiences and life lessons. I’m really excited to be back home and playing.”

Catherine Cannuli: Focusing On The Here And Now

Above: Western Sydney Wanderers head coach Catherine Cannuli speaking to the media yesterday. Photo: Western Sydney Wanderers

The Western Sydney Wanderers head coach opened by speaking of the importance of last week’s win at Brisbane Roar.”It was a relief to get those first three points, it had certainly been coming. The team can now relax into the rest of the competition.”

With Wanderers coming back from a COVID outbreak which has now impacted an ever growing number of teams in the competition, Cannuli emphasized the importance of focusing on the here and now.

“It’s crazy times, but it is crazy times for everyone. We take each day as it comes. We just deal with what we can control at any one time. There are things we can control and things we can’t. It’s super important to keep just focused on one day at a time.”

Western Sydney face a Melbourne Victory side who are in a sticky patch of form at the present time, but Cannuli knows that her team need to beware of the wounded animal.

“Victory are going to be a tough opponent. We’ll be working hard because we want those three points to keep building momentum for the rest of the season.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW

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