Confidence High, and Ayres in form as Victory travel to Perth

By Kieran Yap (10/12/22)

Above: Melina Ayres in action for Melbourne Victory. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

Only goal difference separated Melbourne Victory and Perth Glory last season. The slimmest of margins and a draw between the two sides meant that Melbourne Victory finished fourth and went on to become champions.

A month into the current campaign and their positions are similar again. Perth Glory is without a win but have had better form front of goal. They have scored four times in the first three games.  Melbourne Victory had to wait three weeks to score their first. It happened in the 1-0 win over Wellington Phoenix.

It makes for an interesting encounter. Glory will be hungry to reverse their form in front of a home crowd. Melbourne Victory have had their confidence boosted after a pressure-releasing performance.

“The win was really important for us last week,” Victory manager Jeff Hopkins told the media.

“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 was a lot different to how I viewed it afterwards. We definitely controlled the game. There was some perceived threat, but it didn’t really show any chances really.

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

Above: Melbourne Victory head coach Jeff Hopkins talking to the media yesterday. Image: Melbourne Victory.

Victory’s training sessions have been lighter this week. The match against Wellington was played in gruelling conditions. Tiffany Eliadis and Gema Simon both succumbed to the heat. Hopkins says that both players have pulled up well and the squad is in good shape as they head west.

Perth may sit two places below Victory in ninth position, but they have quality players. Melbourne Victory’s coaching staff have looked closely at how to prevent them playing and searched for any weaknesses.

Hopkins is expecting big performances from his fullbacks, most likely Gema Simon and Jessika Nash. Both will be key to creating chances from wide areas and linking up with Beattie Goad on one side, and Lia Privitelli on the other.

Victory have also looked at putting an extra player in midfield. Hopkins is wary of the influence of Hana Lowry and Ella Mastrantonio. They will be without Amy Jackson but have Alana Murphy and Paige Zois who can play centrally if called on.

“They’ve had a bit of an up and down start, but I’m not underestimating them,” Hopkins said of Perth.  

“They’ve recruited pretty well, they play quite an aggressive style of play. They’ll press high, they’ll be right in your face. We’ve obviously worked quite hard this week on how we’re going to play, and how we’re going to play out against them. There’s definitely going to be space in certain areas of the pitch.

Above: Perth Glory’s Hana Lowry – a player that Jeff Hopkins is wary of. Photo: Tom McCarthy.

“We’ve worked hard to make sure that we understand what they’re all about. Areas that we need to play in, 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.”

Key to Melbourne’s chances this week is the form of Melina Ayres. The striker is a big game specialist and scored hers (and Victory’s) first of the season last week.

“She’s a different person this week,” said Hopkins.

“She does have the tendency to be a little bit down on herself sometimes. She’s probably her own harshest critic. I was really pleased for her to score the goal. It was a great goal as well. She did everything just right.

“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.

“Week to week all we can ask of her is that she’s a little bit better each week. She definitely was last week, and she’s trained really well this week, and looking confident as well which is a big advantage to her.”

A confident Melina Ayres is exactly what Victory need to win away against Perth Glory. It is a potentially important game for both sides. A chance to continue building momentum for one, and an opportunity to reverse it for the other.

It shapes up to be an exciting match, and perhaps even an early finals preview.

For the view of the opposition, Ben Gilby‘s report from Perth Glory’s media conference can be read here: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/12/08/canberra-perth-glory-wanderers-media-conferences/

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