Round Three of the Liberty A-League gets underway this Saturday. Here is everything you need to know ahead of all five matches.
The Liberty A-League returns to action following the international break and there are some mouth-watering fixtures across the board.
From the ‘Original Rivalry’ between Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United, to free-scoring Canberra United’s visit of high-flying Perth Glory.
Defending champions Sydney FC, though will not be in action over the weekend due to their AFC Women’s Club Championship in Uzbekistan. That means Central Coast Mariners will also watch from the sidelines in round three.
Saturday, 12:45pm (AEDT): Wellington Phoenix v Brisbane Roar
Wellington Phoenix will have a spring in their step heading into their round-three Liberty A-League clash with Brisbane Roar after securing their first win of the season last time out.
The Phoenix’ 3-0 triumph over Western Sydney Wanderers marked their first win in the competition since March and moved them up to fourth on the ladder heading into the latest round of fixtures.
However that victory was also a memorable one for 21-year-old Macey Fraser, who capped off her debut with a long-range strike to help put the game to bed.
“I was obviously quite nervous, it was a bit of a step up from the academy,” said Fraser, who’s Wellington journey has now come full circle having once led the team out as a mascot aged eight.
“Every week in training I feel like we’re getting better and we’re getting more on the same page. I think we can beat anyone if we play good football, keep the ball, move forward with it and be confident around the box.”
Wellington will certainly face a stern test against Brisbane Roar though, with Garrath McPherson’s side heading into the game with maximum points from their opening two games.
Round two saw Roar knock off double-winners Sydney FC care of Chelsea Blissett’s first-half strike in a game which also saw the return of Matilda Tameka Yallop.
“As the season goes on and Yallop gets more minutes and gets to know her team, she’ll be so invaluable to the squad,’ said Dubzone analyst and three-time Championship winner Teresa Polias. “She is a goalscorer and if they can even just get that one goal and then hold out, well that’s all they need.”
In terms of statistics, Brisbane Roar’s 1-0 win over Sydney FC certainly highlighted the solidity of their defence, with McPherson’s side able to claim all three points without causing too many problems going forward.
“This was the second lowest xG to win a game since the start of last year and that belongs to Brisbane as well,” said Dubzone commentator Teo Pellizzeri. “So Garrath McPherson knows how to shut the gate at one end and that’s a brilliant way to start the season.”
Saturday’s clash at Sky Stadium also represents one of THREE doubleheaders taking place in Round Three across both the Liberty and Isuzu UTE A-Leagues with the men’s sides to face off following the conclusion of this game.
Opta Stat: This will be the fourth A-League Women match between Wellington Phoenix and Brisbane Roar; the Roar are undefeated across their previous three meetings (W1 D2), despite trailing at half-time on the day in two of those three games.
Saturday, 4:00pm (AEDT): Canberra United v Perth Glory
Canberra United will run out on home soil for the first time this season as they look to secure a first win in 2023-24.
Njegosh Popovich’s Canberra have garnered just a solitary point from their opening two matches and face a Perth Glory sat top of the table and in sizzling form with two wins from two matches.
Undoubtedly key to any success Canberra will achieve this season is legendary forward Michelle Heyman who, with two goals already this season, has moved her overall tally to 95 and is inching closer to becoming the first Liberty A-League member of the 100 club.
Heyman has been directly involved in a goal her last four Liberty A-League games and, coupled with young star Vesna Milivojevic, the duo have ensured United are the joint-top scorers so far this season.
But while Canberra may boast the joint-best attack in the league, they come up against a resilient Perth Glory side who are yet to concede a goal this season.
Led by former Canberra assistant Alex Epakis, Perth have knocked off both 2022-23 Grand Finalists Western United and Newcastle Jets and will be aiming to make it back-to-back wins against the capital club for the first time in competition history.
If that is to happen then the player most likely to be front and centre for Perth Glory is in-form forward Susan Phonsongkham, who comes into the game having scored four goals in her last five matches.
“She has always been a technician,” remarked former Sydney FC captain and Dub Zone analyst Teresa Polias. “The only thing with Susan has been her consistency and continuity. She’s had a few injury setbacks over the years.”
Opta Stat: Of the 27 meetings between these two sides, Canberra hold the advantage having won 14 and drawn 10, while Perth have also never won in Canberra.
Saturday, 5:00pm (AEDT): Melbourne Victory v Adelaide United
The second of three double-headers across both the Women’s and Men’s competitions this weekend sees Melbourne Victory host Adelaide United at AAMI Park on Saturday.
Victory have endured a tough start to the Liberty A-League season after losing both games, with their most recent defeat an agonising 2-1 loss to Western United.
Despite that loss last time out, one positive for Victory will undoubtedly be the return of 113-time Matilda Elise Kellond-Knight, who featured off the bench.
With regards to the other Matildas in the squad, Victory will welcome back first-choice goalkeeper Lydia Williams following her involvement with the Matildas while striker Emily Gielnik continues to manage an ankle issue but there’s a good chance she’ll be given some minutes by Jeff Hopkins this weekend.
As for the opposition, Saturday’s clash at AAMI Park will see Adelaide hit the road for the first time this season after playing both their opening two games at Coopers Stadium.
The Reds’ thrilling 4-4 draw with Canberra United in round one was followed by a disappointing 2-1 home loss to Central Coast Mariners, meaning they’ve now won just one of their last 15 league matches.
Head Coach Adrian Stenta will hope to have Maruschka Waldus available for Saturday’s trip to Melbourne after recovering from off-season leg surgery, with the experienced defender getting some minutes under her belt in a recent internal trial match.
Defence is certainly an area of concern for Adelaide though, with the Reds conceding at least two goals in their last five Liberty A-League matches.
Opta Stat: Melbourne Victory have lost only one of their last seven A-League Women matches against Adelaide United (W5 D1) – a 3-0 loss in February 2022; they have scored exactly two goals in each of their three meetings since then (W2 D1).
Sunday, 4:00pm (AEDT): Western United v Melbourne City
Western United are finally off and running this campaign after defeating Melbourne Victory 2-1 in Round Two of the Liberty A-League. Can they take down another Championship hopeful?
Keiwa Hieda’s 90th-minute strike ensured last season’s runners-up secured their first three points of the season but they have their work cut out in round three as they welcome a Melbourne City side with two wins from two to begin 2023-24.
In more good news for the club, Western head coach Marc Torcaso has moved to rectify any early defensive issues by re-signing last year’s Goalkeeper of the Year Hillary Beall on a season-long loan from NWSL side Racing Louisville FC.
“I really enjoyed my time at Western so I am really grateful the Club is bringing me back in with the girls,” said Beall, who was named Liberty A-League Player of the Month in January and February.
“Obviously the main goal is to win a Championship. Coming back though, I now have two years as a pro under my belt and I have found myself and my confidence, so I will bring that to the group.”
Beall was a key component of the team which took the Liberty A-League by storm in 2022-23, playing 18 matches, keeping five clean sheets and ultimately walking away with both the ‘Golden Glove’ and ‘Save of the Year’ gongs at the Dolan Warren awards.
Meanwhile, City enter Sunday’s clash full of confidence after starting the campaign in perfect fashion.
Dario Vidosic’s City have beaten both Wellington Phoenix and, most recently, Canberra United, with forward Rhianna Pollicina scoring both goals in a 2-1 win.
That brace solidifies the 26-year-old’s standing as one of the most dangerous players in the Liberty A-League and she’s now scored seven goals in her last seven league appearances.
Furthermore, 20-year-old winger Holly McNamara has carried her fine form into the new season and was a constant source of attacking threat for City in that win, creating seven chances for her teammates.
Opta Stat: This will be the third Liberty A-League match between Western United and Melbourne City; Western United have won each of their previous two meetings, despite not leading at halftime on the day in either of those two fixtures.
Sunday, 5:45pm (AEDT): Newcastle Jets v Western Sydney Wanderers
The final game of round three sees Newcastle host Western Sydney in the last of this weekend’s three double-headers.
Newcastle got on the board early in the season after beating rivals Central Coast Mariners in the F3 Derby but came back empty handed from Western Australia after going down 1-0 to Perth Glory.
Despite that defeat though, Gary Van Egmond will feel as though his team probably did enough to earn a point against Glory.
The Jets left HBF Park having created more opportunities, taken more shots both inside and outside the box and hit the woodwork on a day where their forwards simply couldn’t find the finishing touch.
However with a home clash against the Wanderers to come, striker Melina Ayres will be licking her lips at the prospect of facing a Western Sydney side with the third-worst defensive record in the league this season.
The Wanderers have tasted defeat in both of their games so far this campaign, losing 2-0 to Sydney FC and most recently 3-0 at home to Wellington Phoenix.
But arguably the most pressing concern for head coach Robbie Hooker will be the fact his Wanderers are now the only Liberty A-League side without a goal to their names this season.
One remedy for those attacking woes though could be the inclusion of wonderkid Milly Clegg, who is finally available for selection after turning 18 and thus receiving international clearance to play following her transfer from Wellington Phoenix.
Despite her age Clegg has enjoyed quite the career so far, bagging four goals in her debut Liberty A-League season with the ‘Nix as well as featuring in THREE World Cups in the space of a year – representing New Zealand at the U-17, U-19 and FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Opta Stat: Western Sydney Wanderers defeated Newcastle Jets 1-0 in their most recent meeting in the Liberty A-League (28 January 2023), snapping a four-match winless run against the Jets (D2 L2); the last and only time the Wanderers kept consecutive clean sheets against the Jets was their first two meetings in the competition (November 2012 to December 2013).