Above: Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis. Photo: Perth Glory.
Ahead of tomorrow’s match Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis, and defender Claudia Mihocic as the Western Australians prepare to face Sydney FC in Tasmania (26/2/22).
Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis remains totally focused on his own team’s performances rather than working out potential mathematics for Finals qualification.
“For me, two solid performances in our last games, attacking the matches in the way we want to would please me. Whether that leaves us where we want to be in terms of Finals is secondary. We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved so far. We want to perform at our best and then we have to see what happens and see where we are.”
Epakis’ team travel to Launceston to take on leaders Sydney FC, looking to show how far they have come since going down 4-0 in the Harbour City in early January.
“I actually look back to the last time we played them (a 4-0 defeat) and see it as a turning point in our season. It was our third game in seven days and were a bit flat. We learned a lot about ourselves as a team and where we were at. We’ve matured and improved from then,” he said.
“We also know a bit more about them, and more prepared about what we can do. We’re not going out to take a backward step. We’re going to attack the game and we’re going to put on a performance to get a result. I have big faith in what the players can do. After the game against Victory, they should have that faith too.”
With Glory still based in Sydney, the head coach explained the itinerary that his team face over the coming days.
“We’ll have our matchday minus preparation here in Sydney early tomorrow morning before heading to the airport for 10:30am to fly over to Tassie, play the game on Sunday, and back to Sydney on Monday.”
Whilst the relocation of the game to Tasmania as part of a doubleheader with Perth’s men’s team came pretty late in the day, Epakis doesn’t see it as a problem. Rather as yet another hurdle to clear this season.
“We haven’t had a routine. It’s been much of a muchness. It’s not a disruption. It’s the job, it’s what we have to do. We’ve had to do it the hard way for two years now. It is what it is.
Perth’s excellent win at Melbourne Victory last weekend saw defender Claudia Mihocic turn in an impressive debut performance. Glory’s head coach rates the 18-year-old highly.
“Claudia was a really important signing for us. Due to her Final Year 12 exams in Melbourne and border closures, she wasn’t able to join us until we moved to Sydney. She’s only been with us now for eight weeks. She connected with the group. She is a very intelligent and social person. I’m glad everyone got a chance to see what she was capable of (on debut at Melbourne Victory).
“She has fantastic ability, leadership, and character. She has the mindset to be the best she can. The fact she is here this year and next year excites me and I’m looking forward to working with her.
“Claudia finished Year 12. She was happy to move to the other side of the country to test herself. She had been involved with Melbourne Victory for a while. She really backed herself to see what was out there. Full credit to her for that, it’s not easy.”
Mihocic’s performance last weekend eased the pain of Liz Anton being away on international duty with New Zealand at the SheBelieves Cup. At the present time, it is not confirmed whether Anton will play any part in tomorrow’s match.
“Liz has had some good experiences in the USA. She will get in very early tomorrow morning (Saturday). We’ll see how she trains. Obviously, she is an international player, so it is great to have her in the squad. She’s very honest so if she is right, she’ll be in the team.
Epakis revealed that, apart from Anton’s potential return, selection remains generally settled. “The squad will remain pretty similar to the one involved last weekend with Melbourne Victory. The only one not available is Leena Khamis. She has an important personal commitment that she can’t get out of. That’s totally fine as we knew it was the case when we signed her as an injury replacement.
Perth Glory defender Claudia Mihocic spoke of her huge pride in making her debut in front of her family at AAMI Park.
“Mum asked for 10 tickets, but I think there were at least double that at the game!” Mihocic laughed.
“I had a lot of support from Kim (Carroll), Tash (Rigby), and Mie (Leth Jans). Being surrounded by those players was great. Tash let me know how much she believed in me and how much faith she had. It really helped to calm me down. The whole team had that confidence in me. That, in turn gave me belief.
“The quality and intensity is a big jump. I think it was eight months since I last played in the Victoria NPL so I had forgotten what it was like, so to come into the A-League Women was a big step up, but I felt like I could adjust during the game and get into the swing of things.”
“My last game was pre-lockdown in Melbourne back in July. I have done lots of running and got all the programs I needed. There were one on one sessions with a coach in Melbourne which helped me retain my ball skills. By the time I got to finally train with the team was a huge relief. It took a little while to get used to it and get match fitness, but it feels good to be at that level.”
“It was hugely helpful having Alana (Jancevski) and Sofia (Sakalis) already here at the club. It was so great that I could come in having players that I was close to, along with Sarah Cain who I had played NPL with really eased me in. They helped me get to know everyone. But the girls that I didn’t know were lovely too and helped me.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s game, Mihocic said: “They are very technical with a fast front three who have chemistry together. However, I have so much confidence in our back line. We know what they can do, but we also know what we can do. We know we can stop their attacks. Coming off a clean sheet last week is a real confidence booster. Everyone is coming in with a good mindset. Defensive work across the whole team can help defuse their attack.”