Melbourne club media conferences

Kieran Yap reports on Melbourne Victory boss Jeff Hopkins’ media conference today, with Jonathan Tay delivering all the details from Melbourne City head coach Dario Vidosic‘s event (10/2/23).

Victory add quality and depth for Chidiac’s farewell game

by Kieran Yap

Above: Alex Chidiac (centre), seen here in action against Sydney FC earlier this season, is likely to play her final game of the season for Melbourne Vuctory this weekend. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Melbourne Victory are strengthened for their encounter with Brisbane Roar, but it is likely to be the last fans see of Alex Chidiac this season.

Victory coach Jeff Hopkins held onto some faint hope that Chidiac could be retained but admitted that she would be recalled to Racing Louisville FC ahead of the NWSL season.

“We are working on it, but she will be going back I’m pretty sure,” said Hopkins. “Tomorrow will almost certainly be her last game, for now anyway.”

The Matildas playmaker has been one of the stars of the competition, with five goals and five assists in just over half the A-League Women’s season. She has been the difference for Victory in some tight games. Her unique style and tireless running have helped steer the club through an injury-hit campaign.

Although she will be sorely missed by the club and the competition, Victory have never been better placed to deal without her, and tomorrow’s game might see their strongest lineup this season.

Star striker Melina Ayres is due to return, and match-winning attacker Catherine Zimmerman is a probable starter.

Zimmerman won a crucial penalty against Western Sydney Wanderers last week, and set up Tiff Eliadis for Victory’s third after a powerful run down the wing and well-placed pass.

“She finished the game really strongly and she’ll be ready for us to start this week which is a massive bonus,” Hopkins said of the American.

“Obviously what she brings, her energy, her quality, her ability to finish left or right foot, and just to put defenders on edge. It was great to have her back, she made quite a big difference in the last 15-20 minutes. But also, we’ll get Melina back this week as well.

“We’ve been a little bit cautious with her, but she’s been training the house down this week. She gives us that element where we have the ability to finish off our attacks from a number of different players, not just one or two.”

Zimmerman’s assist came deep into added time in the last round. Although most coaches would prefer their players to run the ball to the corner flag and take up time, Hopkins was delighted that she chose to go on the attack and seal the game. In a league where goal difference can be crucial, it was an inspired moment of brilliance in her comeback game.

Above: Melbourne Victory boss Jeff Hopkins spoke of his players “training down the house” this week. Image: Melbourne Victory

“Go, kill them off with a goal!” said Hopkins. “I think in that situation it’s sometimes right to run into the corner. She made the right decision and made the right ball at the right time as well. “(Eliadis) is deadly from a metre out with no opposition.”

Only defender Gema Simon remains on the injury list, and Victory are close to full strength. It means options for the manager, and Hopkins has been impressed with the intensity at training as competition for places heats up.

“I’m very pleased with the way that we reacted to defeat the week before, and even happier with the way that we’ve reacted this week.

“The quality has been really high, the intensity has been really high. The good thing for me is the young girls have really been pushing hard as well this week. Alana Murphy, Rosie Curtis, Ava Briedis, and Paige Zois have been training out of their skin.

“They’ve kind of realised that they need to step up to get into this side and they’ve put themselves in the window to play this week.”

Grand final hero Amy Jackson made her second start for the season last week. Her experience and expertise in the defensive midfield role helped negate some of Western Sydney’s attack. She could be vital once again as Hopkins anticipated a duel between two high-quality midfields.

If Brisbane’s midfield trio can dominate and supply their pacy attack, it could spell trouble for Victory.

Above: Elise Kellond-Knight (left) will need to be on her A game tomorrow as Jeff Hopkins emphasised how he expects his midfielders to step up against Brisbane Roar. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

“We need to match them in those one vs one duels,” said Hopkins. “Mini (Katrina Gorry) Eesh Norrie and young Hollie Palmer are three very dangerous players.

“All are very good on the ball, all comfortable in possession, and all capable of getting forward as well.

“In terms of K-K (Elise Kellond-Knight), Chids, A.J, Murph, Paige whoever is playing in there, we need to step up and work hard. They need to defend well as a unit and as individuals. That’s something we’ve been stressing not just to them but all our players over the last month. How important those individual duals are to the outcome of the game.

“I think that midfield battle is an area that will be doubly important tomorrow.

“We’re looking for big games from all of our midfield players, but it’s not just about that. To win this game it’s going to have to be a real peak performance and that’s what we’ve been stressing throughout the week.”

Roar edged past Adelaide United in week 13 with a 1-0. It was a result largely decided by the quality of Gorry and the efforts in goal by Hensley Hancuff. Victory are not expecting an easy game, but with the returning firepower, and the possible swansong of Alex Chidiac, they are well-placed to get a result.

City focus on learning lessons and moving on ahead of clash with leaders

by Jonathan Tay

Above: Melbourne City head coach Dario Vidosic speaking to the media today. Image: Melbourne City

After a difficult loss last weekend, where Melbourne City were comprehensively beaten by Sydney FC 3-0, both head coach Dario Vidosic and defender Katie Bowen were in a reflective yet upbeat mood speaking to the media on Friday.

“These things happen in football; we’re a young team and we’re continuing to learn,” Vidosic said. “It was everything that we worked on and looked at, we knew their threats, so that was a little disappointing. As a team you can have off nights; it’s happened to the greatest teams in the world.”

Bowen added, “It was hard to put our finger on why that happened, but I just know it wasn’t falling for us. Sydney are a good team but we didn’t play to our capabilities which was disappointing, but we learn from that and move on.

“We had a gameplan and we certainly didn’t execute it, but we sat down, went over film, [Vidosic] took us through it and we had to learn from it. It’s no point just moving on and not going over it. I think everyone knows they’ve got a very dangerous front line. I think what’s hard is that we didn’t bring our best game.”

Vidosic continued, “We did have that solution, when Bowie (Katie Bowen), we were trying to bring her in the build-up into the midfield, where we had the overload. With [Madison] Haley, [Cortnee] Vine, and [Princess] Ibini, they would jump on occasions, and just the distance between our players was a little too far. It was a bit disappointing that we didn’t really play to the best of our ability, in terms of structure.

“I felt we were a little too rushed and we played into their hands, where we couldn’t maintain [the ball] for long enough in good periods and force their back three back. It was just one of those afternoons, but we can’t now throw away all the good work. I’ve been proud of the ladies and how we’ve performed for the season. The week leading into the Sydney game was excellent and this week as well, so that’ll be up to us tomorrow to make sure it was a one-off.”

Above: Katie Bowen in her media conference today. Image: Melbourne City.

It’s another big game this weekend for City, with a top-of-the-table clash with Western United, who themselves are coming off two successive losses. Both Bowen and Vidosic spoke about the positives they took from the reverse fixture earlier in the season, despite a 2-1 defeat to the league leaders.

“The biggest message was just to be us,” Vidosic said. “We have an excellent opportunity at AAMI Park, a bit of a Melbourne Derby as well, so it sets up for a great chance for us to respond.

“We know we’re up against a good team. They’re coming off two losses, so they’ll throw everything at us tomorrow; they’ll want to get their season back on track. But same as us, we want to put ourselves back in the winners’ column and keep pushing and putting pressure on that top spot.”

Bowen spoke similarly: “We’re feeling really confident. We had a bit of a slip-up last week, so we’re looking at this week as a kind of redemption. We know it’s going to be a tough game for us. We think it was arguably our best performance last time we played them.

“Their (Western United’s) tenacity and fight is their biggest strength. They’ve got a tall forward in [Hannah] Keane, but I know they’ve also lost Jess Macdonald, which is a big loss for them. If we do what we did against Sydney and don’t show up then it’s going to be really tough for us. I’ve got no doubt that we will though.

“I don’t think we need to change a whole lot, but we definitely need to convert our chances; we had some really good opportunities in that game but unfortunately didn’t finish them. If we had, then it possibly would’ve been a different outcome for us.”

Above: Hannah Wilkinson and Katie Bowen (left and centre) are part of the New Zealand Football Ferns squad for the upcoming international window. Photo: Melbourne City

The international break coming up right after the weekend will see New Zealander Bowen join up with the Football Ferns squad, with friendlies on home soil scheduled as part of their ongoing preparation for the FIFA Women’s World Cup later this year.

Bowen stated, “It’s a longer tour, and it’s probably the closest thing we’re going to have to replicate the World Cup, going three games with two days in between. Obviously, ideally, I hope we get the results – I think we have the chance to – but we have to see what our gameplan is, execute it as best we can, and similar to here, watch film, go over our games and treat it like a World Cup where we need at least four points to get out of the group.”

Melbourne City have a number of other players also on national team duty, whilst Vidosic and those staying behind will be kept busy as well. “It’s an honour for us as well, and I’m sure for the ladies,” the City head coach remarked.

“We’re very proud as a club that we can have two in the Young Matildas (Daniela Galic and Caitlin Karic) and two in the Football Ferns. They’re all preparing for big things, especially [Bowen and Hannah Wilkinson] who have a World Cup not too far away. For Cote [Rojas], she’s got a big qualifier coming up for Chile to book her place at the World Cup.

“In the meantime, we have a friendly coming up against the Young Matildas, which we’ll be looking forward to, and gives us a chance to work with the group maybe a bit more individually and spend more time now that we’ve got lesser numbers.

“We’ll prepare for that Young Matildas game like any other game; we might work on a couple things, maybe have one little eye on Newcastle (their first game back after the international break).”

Artwork: Charlotte Stacey, founder of On Her Side.

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