Ayres at the Double as champions take the Glory

Perth Glory 0-3 Melbourne Victory

Report by Ben Gilby. Pitchside photos from Tom McCarthy at Macedonia Park (11/12/22).

Above: Melina Ayres opens the scoring for Melbourne Victory today. Photo: Tom McCarthy.

Melbourne Victory made it back-to-back wins with as the reigning A-League Women champions produced a ruthless ability to turn chances into goals in Perth.

This result extends the Western Australian’s winless start with Glory having taken only two points from a possible 12 to open the season.

As promised earlier in the week, Perth head coach Alex Epakis made a number of changes to his squad. Morgan Aquino and Sadie Lawrence made their first starts of the campaign as both Bella Wallhead and Kim Carroll dropped out due to illness and family commitments respectively. Demi Koulizakis was on the bench and Alana Jancevski came back into the starting line-up with Gabrielle Coleman among the subs.

Above: Perth Glory’s Sadie Lawrence gets a tackle in on her return to the starting line-up. Photo: Tom McCarthy.

Melbourne Victory were without Catherine Zimmerman, injured in the Grand Final rematch against Sydney FC, but Jeff Hopkins was able to call on the vast experience of Gema Simon and talented youngster Alana Murphy in the starting line-up with Maja Markovski among the substitutes.

Victory had all the possession in the early stages, with a particular focus on their left hand side where Beattie Goad was busy. Murphy was looking to put probing balls through which the Western Australians were alert to.

Glory grew into the game with the industry of Rylee Baisden earning back-to-back corners. From the second, Hana Lowry curled a tempter in from the right, and Jancevski directed a header goalward with Liz Anton also looking to get a touch, as the visitors were forced to scramble off the line.

Above: Alana Jancevski (23) gets up to direct a header goalwards with Liz Anton (third purple shirt from the right) poised to head on. Photo: Tom McCarthy.

Jancevski showed her outrageous talent shortly afterwards as Perth’s young gun let fly from over 40 yards with an effort that dipped just wide of the post.

Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis had identified a non-negotiable pre-game. He expected his team to consistently get their ultra-high press into operation and it was largely successful. Allied to a strong defensive effort, it led to the best opening 45 that Perth have produced all campaign from these perspectives. However, they were not able to consistently unleash their attacking talent in an effective manner.

However improved Glory were at the back, the quality that Victory possess was enough to cause problems. Melina Ayres’ influence grew as she found Lia Privitelli who found Alex Chidiac outside her. The Matildas midfielder played the ball in towards Goad who had an effort blocked before Ayres’ follow-up was dealt with.

Above: Beattie Goad (left) had an excellent afternoon for Melbourne Victory. Photo: Tom McCarthy.

Shortly afterwards, the Victory duo combined again to devastating effect. Goad motored along the left and pulled the ball across for Ayres to control, turn, and poke with the outside of her foot into the left-hand corner of the net.

Jancevski remained at the heart of everything dangerous Perth created. From a throw-in on the right, she lofted a ball into the box towards Baisden. It came in at a height that could be headed or kicked which so often leaves attackers betwixt and between. The American went with the latter and it just ran wide of the post.

Melbourne Victory had the brighter start to the second half with Goad having the first opportunity which she lifted over the bar. However, the game was ultimately decided within a 90-second spell.

Above: Sarah Cain’s second yellow card ended up changing the game decisively. Photo: Tom McCarthy.

Sarah Cain received a second yellow card for a foul on Privitelli with 36 minutes remaining, and Perth’s uphill task became mountainous within seconds as a corner curled into the back post and Lowry’s clearance header fell straight to Ayres who fired home.

Victory dialled up the pressure, forcing Perth into errors. The hosts responded by rolling the dice and bringing on Susan Phonsongkham and Coleman, both of whom had an impact and led to a brief shift of momentum. The latter, now part of an all-American front three with Cyera Hintzen and Baisden, was played in by Lowry and got a shot away which hit the side netting.

However, whilst Perth may have pressed, they were not able to turn this into shots on target – and once more they were made to pay in the most ruthless way possible. After earning a corner, midfield maestro Chidiac stepped up and curled a sensational ‘Olympico’ into the far corner.

Above: Morgan Aquino watches as Alex Chidiac’s corner curls into the net. Photo: Tom McCarthy.

The remaining 15 minutes saw Victory comfortable in possession to seal their second straight win of the campaign. Indeed, 16-year-old sub Ava Briedis could have extended the Victory lead when her sensational long-range effort from the left of centre from over 25 yards troubled Aquino, but just failed to hit the target.

Speaking to the media after the game, Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis said: “I’m proud of my players. I’m proud of the way we went after the reigning champs. The first half, we went in 1-0 down, but I was still confident we could get something out of the game. Once the red card happened…we didn’t drop tools. We kept going for them and that’s why I’m sat here with a level of dignity and respect for the players and what they did.”

In terms of player availability and usage, Epakis continued to be positive, saying: “We’re struggling for numbers, (but) everyone gave 100%. Hana has a free role and we want her to find spaces. We’re happy for her to roam. When you have a talented player like her, you don’t want to shackle her.”

Above: Hana Lowry had a busy afternoon for Perth Glory. Photo: Tom McCarthy.

Melbourne Victory head coach Jeff Hopkins spoke of his pride in his players’ ability to meet the specific targets he set them ahead of the game. “Intensity and keeping the ball – we definitely did that. We came in at half time reasonably comfortable. The sending-off changed the game completely. Scoring straight away settled us down.

Hopkins was full of praise for two-goal Melina Ayres, convinced that the attacker is back to her best after a frustrating run with injury: “She scored a great goal last week, and she trained so well this week. When we get forward we need to get the ball in and around her area. She is back to the form she was in the year before last.”

Above: Melina Ayres’ (centre) performance drew raise from Melbourne Victory head coach Jeff Hopkins. Photo: Tom McCarthy.

The Victory boss underlined the progression he is seeing in his side and the further yards that he expects them to make in the weeks ahead: “We understand we’re not where we want to finish. We have a lot of improvements (to make) in our play.

“We have a number of new players, a number of young players in the squad, and its exciting for me that we can put a performance like that together this early in the season, we’re only going to get better.”

Jeff Hopkins, Melbourne Victory head coach.

Perth Glory have not yet managed to produce a performance that has combined their bread and butter high press defence with the best use of their raft of attacking talent. With Canberra United travelling to the West next Sunday, the purples need to fix the connections to ensure the potential that this squad has can finally be unleashed.

Above: Perth Glory will be looking to get their first win next weekend when Canberra United visit Macedonia Park.

Melbourne Victory will be confident of keeping their winning run going when they welcome Newcastle Jets to AAMI Park. The champions are shifting into gear, and that’s ominous for the rest of the league.

More of Tom McCarthy’s photos from Macedonia Park:

For more of Tom’s photos, visit: nplphotos.com

Teams: PERTH GLORY (3-4-2-1): Aquino, Anton, Mastrantonio, Lawrence, Green, Lowry, Cain, Rigby, Jancevski, Baisden, Hintzen. Substitutes: Coleman, Koulizakis, Langman (GK), Phonsongkham, Sakalis.

MELBOURNE VICTORY (4-3-3): Dumont, Simon, Bunge, Morrison, Nash, Kellond-Knight, Murphy, Chidiac, Goad, Ayres, Privitelli. Substitutes: Briedis, Eliadis, Markovski, Templeman (GK), Zois.

Scorers: Ayres 25′, 58′. Chidiac 75′.

Referee: Lara Lee.

Attendance: 700.

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