A-League Women Top Tussle Previewed

Above: Sydney FC goalkeeper Jada Whyman, who is aiming to equal Lydia Williams’ record of seven consecutive clean sheets when she faces Melbourne City. Photo: A-League Women.

Ahead of Saturday’s A-League Women game between unbeaten leaders Sydney FC and second-placed Melbourne City, Ben Gilby heard from Sydney goalkeeper Jada Whyman plus the Melbourne City pair of Rhianna Pollicina and head coach Rado Vidosic (21/1/22).

Jada Whyman is looking to equal a record held by her hero this weekend. Lydia Williams’ run of seven consecutive W-League clean sheets is in Whyman’s sights and if she can keep second-placed Melbourne City out on Saturday, it will be a milestone achievement in her career.

The 22-year-old Sydney FC shot-stopper, who is also an ambassador for Impetus‘ charity partners, John Moriarty Football, spoke to the media this week about the battle of the top two in the A-League Women.

“I have become aware of the record over the last week or so from commentary watching last week’s game back and a few people have mentioned it!

“Lydia was a big inspiration to me coming into this league. It’s just been nice to match her in some areas. I still look up to her, but I also want to take a step away from being that little kid looking up to Lydia!

“Going into the Matildas camp I’ve been competing with her for a spot and even both playing in this league at the same time it’s competing against her. It’s about trying to be better. Coming up against her pushes me to become a better goalkeeper. It’s all about development for me and having chances to push myself a bit harder.”

Whyman knows that, if she is going to equal Williams’ record, she will have to do it the hard way against a Melbourne City side boasting the A-League Women’s top scorer, Hannah Wilkinson, and the second-placed side on the table.

“It is a big game. Melbourne City have been doing great, but we are also in good form. The things we have been doing in training have gone out onto the pitch and that’s a testament to the team. The way we have defended through the first six games has been awesome. We’ve just got to keep doing what we’ve been doing and if records get broken, then records get broken. If they don’t, then that’s OK too.

“There hasn’t much specific focus on Melbourne City, we’re just focusing on ourselves and our normal defence. I have no doubt that we’ll do the same fantastic job that we’ve done previously.”

Above: Melbourne City head coach Rado Vidosic speaking to the media today. Photo: Melbourne City.

Rado Vidosic, Melbourne City’s head coach spoke about the feeling in the camp ahead of Saturday’s big game. “The overwhelming emotion in the team is not nervousness ahead of the game but excitement. We have had a strong run in our last four games. We won in Adelaide with a clean sheet. We are quite confident that we can have a similar result in Sydney. Maybe confidence is the right emotion.”

In terms of specific focuses for the game, Vidosic emphasized that “We know all about their strengths and how they utilize them. If we can control them (Sydney) in those moments when they are dangerous, then half of our job is done. They need to concentrate on our strengths too, so it won’t be all one-way traffic. We are confident that we can get something out of the game.

“We’ve played our last four games against top four teams. Tomorrow is the first time that they (Sydney) have played a top-four team so it is a little bit unrealistic to measure their success. They have not been outside of New South Wales either.

They were dominant against Canberra, I thought that would be their biggest test, but they were unbelievable. It is not so much about what they have done so far. Against us, it should be much harder for them.

“The key game for us this season was Melbourne Victory, which made us think ‘Hang on! We are good enough to do something!’ This (the Sydney game) will be our biggest test so far as we will be playing a team that is high on confidence and they are full of top-quality players. They are young, mobile, and have an excellent coach.”

When asked about how he expects the match to go, City’s head coach said: “The game will be played all over the pitch, so we will be defending as high up as possible. We will try to force them to play a different style of football. We need to be organized and defend with 11 players if we need to do that. We need to have a great piece of concentration and know the micro-game with everyone involved. They can punish you very easily, so we even have to think about defending when we are attacking.

“In terms of training during the week, we don’t separate our starting 11 from the rest, so everyone gets the opportunity to practice and is exposed to our principles. The only time we have a clear starting 11 is on the weekend, that way everyone is prepared to do their job. When our players get a chance to perform, they all put their hands up and do their best.”

City’s head coach then outlined the important influence that Rhianna Pollicina has had on his team this season. “She has been a very important player for us, outstanding and creative in our midfield. I have challenged her to score more goals as she doesn’t enter the penalty box enough, but it is happening more frequently and she is reaping the rewards for it. She has great close control.”

Vidosic revealed that Winonah Heatley is back with his squad after returning from Australia’s pre-Asia Cup training camp and is potentially available to play some part in the game at Sydney.

“Obviously she was disappointed not to make the final squad. She had a conversation with (Tony) Gustavsson (Matildas head coach) and he explained why he didn’t select her and she’s back here and happy to have a chance to play. She has been with us for a few months and has developed friendships and camaraderie at our club. Hopefully, she can get another invitation to the Matildas camp for future tournaments and future games.”

Above: Rhianna Pollicina speaking to the media ahead of Melbourne City’s top-of-the-table clash against Sydney FC. Photo: Melbourne City.

Rhianna Pollicina spoke about how different life is like in Victoria compared to her previous club Newcastle Jets.

“The difference in the facilities is the biggest thing and how professional it is here. The access to dietrist and full-time strength and conditioning is top-notch, no disrespect to the Jets.”

Pollicina reviewed her performance in City’s win at Adelaide last weekend by explaining “It was obviously nice to get on the scoresheet, but it was also about the other 10 players. We travelled over there on the day as well. Hopefully, I can now get a few more goals for the club.

“The first 30 minutes we struggled, Adelaide definitely came to play and we always knew that. Once we got past that 30 minutes, we started to stick to our game plan and look after the ball more. From half-time it was a question of could we stay composed in that front third, could we keep recycling the ball and make Adelaide run. It was a different City side. When we lost the ball, we got it back within five seconds. The goal eventually came. Credit to our girls, we didn’t give up for the whole 90.

“We’re definitely improving each week. We didn’t play at our best against Wellington, but that came after a week off. The improvements are coming and we’re developing the game plan that Rado (Vidosic) wants. We all want to work for each other. The energy and effort that everyone puts in for each other is there and as the weeks go on we all get better.

The 24-year-old highlighted how well she is linking up with Rebekah Stott in the midfield. “Playing with Stotty is amazing. I think we offer the same qualities. We’re both good on the ball, so we just understand each other as players. She can hold the ball up, she can beat players and play the killer pass. She saw me and played me through perfectly.”

Looking ahead to this weekend’s battle of the top two, the striker said: “Going over to Sydney is exciting. Most of my family will be coming down for the game and my friends. Sydney FC are the benchmark team in the competition as they are top of the table, but all of our 16 players travelling are up for the game.

“When you look at Sydney FC’s midfielders, they are all quality players and they have all played together for a while. But our formation can trouble any team and so they don’t faze us. We’ll stick to our game plan and focus on ourselves. We’ll start with our press.

“They have quality players missing but have others to come in. We’ll all be ready to go for the battle.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

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