by Ben Gilby (21/4/23).
Above: Melbourne Victory boss Jeff Hopkins speaking to the media ahead of tomorrow’s Preliminary Final at Sydney FC. Image: Melbourne Victory.
Melbourne Victory head coach Jeff Hopkins emphasised to the media today that his team has totally recovered from 120 minutes of dramatic Semi-Final action and are prepared to deny Sydney FC a fourth straight Grand Final appearance.
Hopkins outlined that whilst the early part of the week focussed on recovery, his team are now well versed in what they need to do to defeat Sydney FC yet again in a Final, and they will travel to New South Wales with almost their whole squad available to choose from.
“We had lots of massage and rest on Monday, a day off on Tuesday and the only player that won’t be available is Miranda (Templeman). She fell heavily on her knee early on in the week, so we’ll be bringing another goalkeeper, Gaby (Garton) in. Apart from that, everyone is available. We enjoyed last week, we’ve put that behind us, and we’re totally focussed now on the weekend.”
It has been made abundantly clear to Victory players that their dramatic penalty shoot- out win over Melbourne City will mean nothing now their next challenge is awaiting. Complacency is not an option.
“We played a Final last week. It is not acceptable to us as a group to think we played our Final. If we enjoyed it too much, then that massive high will be hit by a massive low this week. We’re totally focussed on going to Sydney and getting that result. I’m not interested in what they (Sydney FC) do or what preparation they do. We’ve had a good week. We’ve had good tactical work-outs, the girls are physically sharp.”
The defending champions’ head coach was also very clear in emphasising that his team’s wins over Sydney FC in the last two Grand Finals has absolutely no bearing on tomorrow’s showdown.
“The game is a new fresh game. Last year, last game, last week doesn’t come into it. This is a fresh game. They know us inside out, we know them inside out. It’s about getting us physically and mentally prepared and having one or two things up our sleeve that we do differently in terms of personnel and tactics. It will be down to the day.”
In terms of what he is expecting from the home side tomorrow, Hopkins first identified the two options he has in how to set his team up tomorrow, saying: “You can sit back into a deeper block and try and frustrate them, and Western United did that well last week, or you can get in their face, get up, press, and pressure.
“Sydney FC are a very quick, dynamic team. I see the game being pretty open, end to end with two teams setting themselves up to defend the opposition, but also being positive. We can’t fall into the trap of going there, sitting back, and looking to nick the game. We know we need to be positive when we have the ball and do what we have to do without it.”
“I have massive respect for Ante (Juric) as a coach and a massive respect for them as a team. They have been the benchmark for the last three or four years. To beat a team as good as them is a big motivation to get to the Grand Final.”
Highlighting two of his team’s key players in last week’s win over Melbourne City, Melina Ayres, and Casey Dumont, Hopkins said: “Our team have lost one in 18. Melina is scoring in every game she plays.
“She will be a target for them to keep as quiet as they possibly can. It will be a very difficult job. She doesn’t need time or space, she creates it herself. She scores spectacular goals and brings other people into the game well. Some have that big match mentality, she definitely has that.”
When it came to Dumont’s heroics in shot stopping and penalty scoring, Hopkins smiled: “She saved a penalty in normal time, remember, and all the girls rushed to congratulate her, but she was like: ‘No! Get away from me! There’s a corner to defend!’
“When I first came to this club she was one of my first targets, and she’s never let me down. Her motivation is to do well for this club. She enjoys playing for this club, she loves the girls and being here. Her main motivation is to win another Grand Final. She’s the best goalkeeper in the A-League Women at the moment in my eyes.”
Click on this link to read coverage from Sydney FC’s media conference ahead of the match: https://impetusfootball.org/2023/04/20/sarah-hunter-sydney-have-to-capitalise-on-their-chances/