Melbourne Victory’s title defence not getting any easier

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After a strong start to the season Jeff Hopkins’ side has lost two on the trot, and it’s only going to get tougher from here.

All was going according to plan for Melbourne Victory as they led Brisbane Roar 2-0 heading into the final half hour of their A-League Women’s clash at AAMI Park on Sunday.

But a goal conceded off the back of a bungled save by Melissa Maizels, followed by a red card to captain Kyra Cooney-Cross, laid the foundations for a dramatic comeback by the Roar.

Garrath McPherson’s women scored thrice more before full-time, flipping a two-goal deficit into a 4-2 win.

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On his side’s performance, Hopkins said they had a good first-half, but that Cooney-Cross’ send off was a turning point in the match.

“We played some good football in the first half,” he said.

“It certainly changed the game, we allowed them to get back into the contest and put us under pressure. We didn’t deal with it well enough.”

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Having conceded nine goals in their past two matches, Hopkins admitted that their defensive effort and execution simply haven’t been up to scratch.

“We’re working on it, it’s not a worry but it’s something we have to deal with,” he said.

“This comes up every season, and we’ve already spoken about how much better we need to be.”

He also wasn’t making any excuses for his side or himself as the league deals with the volatility of playing sports during the COVID-19 pandemic, even in spite of it leading to three of his players being ruled out of this match.

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“The only impact of COVID is it kept one or two or three players in the squad from playing,” he said.

“But at the end of the day we can’t blame COVID for us giving away soft goals.”

He also added that he understood his role as coach was to ensure his players execute better.

“I put my hand up and say I’ve got to do a better job, but so do the players,” he said.

“Blaming COVID is really just an easy excuse.”

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It certainly isn’t going to get any easier for the Victory, as they may well be forced to play without their captain for an extended period of time. Her red card yesterday will mean Cooney-Cross misses at least one game through suspension, and with Asian Cup selection looming, there’s a very high chance she won’t suit up for Victory again for months.

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While no-one expects them to continue giving up three goals every 10 minutes without her in the side, Victory fans will be hoping that horrific run is not an omen for the season to come.

The defending champions are far from out of the contest, but the battle to retain the trophy at season’s end just got a whole lot tougher.

Feature Image Credit: Peter Hugg

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Mitchell Turner
Third Year Undergraduate Arts Student at Monash University (Journalism Major). Generic sports tragic living out my failed dreams of going pro vicariously through other people.

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