Finals Hopes On The Line In Gosford

Above: Western Sydney Wanderers head coach Catherine Cannuli speaking to the media ahead of tomorrow’s game. Photo: Western Sydney Wanderers (22/1/22).

Tomorrow’s A-League Women game between Perth Glory and Western Sydney Wanderers sees two teams with Finals hopes facing off in Gosford. To preview the game, Ben Gilby heard from both head coaches, Catherine Cannuli of Wanderers and Alex Epakis of Perth. Glory’s Danish international Mie Leth-Jans additionally spoke about her thoughts on the competition halfway through her first season in Australia.

Ahead of Sunday’s game against Perth Glory, Western Sydney Wanderers head coach Catherine Cannuli began her media conference by reflecting on last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at home by Melbourne Victory.

“We should have got a little bit more out of that game, I thought it was a tough one. It took me a few days to re-group and start to look ahead towards Perth. I thought the girls worked super hard and we just have to put it behind us and look forward.

Cannuli spoke about how her players are continuing to come together as the season reaches an important stage. “Team cohesion is great. They are a good bunch of girls who have a great work ethic. We’ve been through a few tough times, but they are gelling really well. I can’t believe we’re halfway through the season already.”

The Wanderers head coach highlighted 15-year-old midfielder Alexia Apostolakis who is becoming a regular member of the starting 11. “Her development has been great. She is a shy, quiet girl, but the older girls are really getting around her and mentoring her and giving her that confidence and belief to get better and better every week. She’s going to be one to watch for the future, but she is already putting her mark on the A-League Women.”

Cannuli also hinted that Alex Hyunh may well make her first appearance for the club since re-joining temporarily. “We don’t just sign players just to sign them. Alex is a big part of this team. She knows what the culture of the club is and, yeah, you might see her this weekend.”

With Western Sydney having scored only two goals in their six matches so far, the coach emphasized that improvements are needed. “There is no denying the fact that we haven’t scored enough goals this season or been fluent in the front third. It’s something we are continuing to work on. We need to be creating more chances and getting more shots on goal.”

However, on the positive side of the ledger, in those six matches, only four goals have been conceded, something that is the result of a lot of hard work pre-season. “First and foremost we worked on our defensive structure, it’s something we’ve been poor on in previous campaigns and so that was a big focus in our pre-season.”

With Sunday’s game being officially a home game for Perth Glory, despite it being played in Gosford, New South Wales due to Western Australia’s border closure, Cannuli sees a big advantage for her team in avoiding having to travel across the country to play the Glory.

“Perth has been on the road for a few weeks now. They have been chopping and changing and it’s not easy to be away from home and living out of a hotel. It can definitely be an advantage to us. However, we’re not going into the game thinking we are definitely getting the three points. We’ll know we will have to work hard for them if we want to get them.

“The girls will go out there knowing that they need to get the three points. If we want to stay in the pack, we need to get as many points as possible. They know how crucial it is for us to get a win this week to keep building momentum.”

Above: Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis – buoyed by an excellent performance in difficult circumstances last weekend. Photo: Perth Glory.

Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis has revealed that he is well on the road to recovery after testing positive for COVID on matchday against Newcastle Jets last weekend.

“I’m feeling OK. I’ve not really had any symptoms since I tested positive. It’s frustrating that I can’t be out there at the moment, but I’m looking forward to getting out soon.

He highlighted the impact that the club’s recent run of matches so close together has had on his players. “The competition schedule wasn’t sensible from a sports science point of view. After going three weeks without a game, we were expected to play three games in a week.

“Some players couldn’t cope with that schedule and have got medium-term injuries. We are hoping to get them back in the next couple of weeks.

“We have a good squad and the last match [at Newcastle] showed that players can step up, even out of position, and still play well.

“At this stage, I am the only COVID case in the group, so things are getting better. The three players are out of quarantine.

“Those that were injured last weekend will not be back for Sunday. If I test negative on my next PCR then I am out of quarantine too.”

Perth’s head coach explained what it’s been like to have to coach from his living room over the past week. “Yeah, it’s been interesting, I’d never missed a matchday before or training session. I’ve just had to accept it.

“I don’t think I’ve ever done anything as difficult as watching a match from my living room. We did our best to have communication with the bench throughout the match, but there was an empty feeling.”

“Having said all that, it emphasizes again how good the performance was against Newcastle, considering all the disruptions. It is a real significant milestone and achievement for us.

Looking ahead to Sunday’s game against the Wanderers, Epakis said: “I think it’s going to be a tense game because it’s a critical one for both teams. Western Sydney is a proud team, they probably haven’t had the consistency of performance that they were hoping for.

“It’s a bit similar to our situation and so it’s timely for us to be playing each other. It will be tense to start with, but when the game gets its flow, it should be a good one for the neutral.

“I’m really excited about what the second half of the season looks like. I think there is a sense of optimism about the group in terms of what we can achieve.”

Above: Mie Leth-Jans, Perth Glory’s Danish international pictured in action against Canberra United in Blacktown recently. Photo: Kris Goman.

Perth Glory’s Danish international Mie-Leth Jans is halfway through her first season in Australian football. She spoke to the media this week about how she’s finding life at the club.

“I’ve known from the start what is expected of me as Alex (Epakis, head coach) and I had good conversations before I got here. I feel that I have gained a lot from being part of this group.

“I feel very comfortable now I know the style of play here. It has been good that people are noticing what I can bring to the team.

“I find the standard very interesting. It’s a lot more of a transitional game, very nice and intense as well.

“It’s quite physical, but the Swedish and Danish leagues I’ve played in are physical too. The difference is in what the referees allow – they allow more to go on here.”

Despite Perth having put in a hugely positive performance at Newcastle last weekend, it is now four games since Glory won. Jans emphasized that confidence remains high in the squad.

“We’re good as a team. The first three games when we moved to a hub in New South Wales were tough as we played them all in a week. However, we recovered well, better than I expected.

“We went over in detail what we need to do to be better and we connected well. It has helped us to get on even better as a group and know who we are.

“Right now we are having to take each day as it comes. We never know what is happening with COVID.

“We are being precautions when around each other, following all the rules and that’s the best we can do to keep safe.”

Reflecting on the Jets game specifically last week, the Dane “We played some parts of the game really well last week and were disappointed not to get three points as we deserved them. We’re ready to go again [against Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday] and hopefully, we’ll get the three points this time.”

“We’re focused on the final third of the pitch for the next game – that’s where the goals are scored and where we can win the game.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

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