Liberty A-League R2 Preview: Matildas star explains her ‘new normal’ after injury

Take a look at some huge match-ups across the weekend in Round 2 of the Liberty A-League 2023-24.

Round 2 of the Liberty UTE A-League season is upon us! Ahead of the action getting underway, previews all six of the contests.



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Saturday, 4pm (AEDT): Brisbane Roar v Sydney FC

Brisbane Roar welcome defending champions Sydney FC to Ballymore Stadium in Round 2 of the Liberty A-League and it could be the first time we see returning Matilda Tameka Yallop in action.

The 32-year-old missed the Roar’s impressive 2-1 season-opening win away against Melbourne Victory at the ‘Home of the Matildas’, but has been named in the squad for Saturday’s clash.

Yallop’s return to fitness certainly gives head coach Garrath McPherson a good selection headache, although he’ll be monitoring the situation of 16-year-old sensation Grace Kuilamu due to academic commitments.

“She has to miss training on Friday because she’s got her English assessment. We just play it by ear with her,” said McPherson of his teenage talent after her goal-scoring performance against Victory.

“She just keeps going up another gear and a well taken finish and she defends… She’s just in the rooms, eating a sandwich at the moment, thinking about school tomorrow!’

As for Sydney, the big absentee will be club captain Natalie Tobin, who was ruled out for the remainder of the season after tearing her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in Round 1.

“It’s a big blow for Natalie and for us as she is a fantastic leader and we will need to adapt on the field without her now,” said head coach Ante Juric following confirmation of the injury on Tuesday.

Tobin’s injury means Juric will now have to reshuffle his backline with full-back Tori Tumeth the most likely candidate to stand-in for the injury skipper.

One piece of good news for the reigning champions though is that American forward Shea Connors is now available to play and has been named in the travelling squad, as has 16-year-old Indianna Dos Santos.

Opta Stat: Sydney FC have lost only one of their last eight Liberty A-League matches against Brisbane Roar FC (W6, D1) – a 4-1 defeat in February 2021.

Brisbane Roar v Sydney FC
Saturday, October 21 2023
Ballymore Stadium
Kick-off: 4:00PM (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+, 10 Play

Friday, 5pm (AEDT): Adelaide United v Central Coast Mariners

Coopers Stadium plays host to TWO A-Leagues contests on Friday night as the Liberty A-League clash between Adelaide United and Central Coast Mariners kicks off an exciting double-header.

Head Coach Adrian Stenta admits he’s unsure what to expect heading into the game with the Mariners given the opposition are something of an unknown quantity.

The Mariners are back in the competition following a 14-year absence and their return ended in a 1-0 loss to F3 rivals Newcastle Jets last week.

“We saw them play last week, but it was a derby game as well. Sometimes they can be a little bit different,” said Stenta.

“But look this competition is only 12 teams, right? So every team in this competition is going to provide a challenge and be difficult and we need to be at our best to beat them.”

Unknown quantity or not, though, Stenta will certainly be looking for a much tighter defensive display from his side given they conceded four at home in their thrilling 4-4 draw with Canberra United.

“There were some real positives to take out of the game and we liked a lot of what we were able to produce,” he said. “But obviously, we’re not going to be a team that is going to be happy with conceding four goals every week. Obviously, we have some things to work on as well.”

As for the Mariners, Head Coach Emily Husband believes her side’s second half performance in the F3 Derby defeat to Newcastle is reason to be optimistic heading into the second week of the season.

“In the second half we were a lot braver,” said Husband. “A lot braver in our press, a lot braver in the way we went forward with the ball, so that was really pleasing to see and that’s what we want to build off going forward.”

The Mariners will be without defender Faye Bryson, who is suspended following her red card against the Jets while Adelaide goalkeeper Annalee Grove is suffering delayed concussion and has been ruled out of the round two matchup.

Opta Stat: Adelaide United had 21 shots in Round 1 of the 2023-24 Liberty A-League season, more than any other team in the competition; Central Coast Mariners (7) are ranked last in this category.

Adelaide United v Central Coast Mariners
Friday, October 20 2023
Coopers Stadium
Kick-off: 5:00 PM (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+, 10 Play

Saturday, 2:45pm (AEDT): Melbourne City v Canberra United

Melbourne City coach Dario Vidosic will be looking for more of the same from his side when they host Canberra United in what is the second of two A-League Women/Men double-headers this weekend.

City returned home from a blustery Wellington with all three points in Round 1 care of Hannah Wilkinson’s close-range finish, leaving Vidosic proud of the way his team played, especially when it came to adapting to a new tactical framework.

“We’d lost seven girls away with the national teams for nearly two weeks so it’s only been like three weeks as a team,” said Vidosic. “To put on a performance like that against a good Wellington team was very pleasing.”

As for their opponents, Canberra head to Melbourne knowing it was a case of what could have been last week.

Njegosh Popovich’s side held the lead three times during their opening round game at Coopers Stadium but walked away with just a point after drawing 4-4 with Adelaide.

No doubt a positive for Popovich though will be what was another stunning performance from Vesna Milivojevic, with the 21 year old adding two more to her goal tally taking it to seven goals in her last five Liberty A-League matches.

New Melbourne City signing Karly Roestbakken remains unavailable for selection due to an ankle injury.

Opta Stat: Melbourne City have lost only one of their last seven Liberty A-League matches against Canberra United (W5 D1).

Melbourne City v Canberra United
Saturday, October 21 2023
Kick-off: 2:45 PM (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+, 10 Play

Sunday, 4pm (AEDT): Western United v Melbourne Victory

Western United will be hoping the return of the influential Chloe Logarzo will be enough to kick-start their campaign when they host Melbourne Victory.

Last season’s beaten Grand Finalists succumbed to a 2-0 loss away to Perth Glory in Round 1 with both goals coming in the second half.

Mark Torcaso’s side created plenty of chances during the game at Macedonia Park but failed to convert any of their eight shots on target as Perth secured the three points.

As for Melbourne Victory, they will undoubtedly be boosted by the news both Emily Gielnik and Elise Kellond-Knight have been included in their squad for this weekend’s local clash.

Forward Gielnik missed Victory’s opening-round loss to Brisbane Roar due to an ongoing ankle issue but the 54-time Matilda insists her condition is improving.

“I feel good to be honest, I do feel like I’m flying,” said Gielnik of the injury which kept her out of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

“I have to now accept that this ankle is my new normal unfortunately but lucky for me I have a high pain-tolerance. I’m just going to have to continue this season as normal.”

Jeff Hopkins’ side were beaten 2-1 in the opening game of the season by Brisbane in what was the club’s first competitive fixture at the Home of the Matildas.

Opta Stat: Melbourne Victory have lost their last two A-League Women matches; the last time they recorded a longer losing run in the competition was a four-match span from November to December in 2016.

Western United v Melbourne Victory
Sunday, October 22 2023
City Vista Recreation Reserve
Kick-off: 4:00PM (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+, 10 Play

Sunday, 5pm (AEDT): Perth Glory v Newcastle Jets

Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis is eyeing two wins from two to start the season – and is expecting to take a fully-fit squad into a Round 2 clash with Newcastle Jets at HBF Park.

Epakis was without New Zealand international Liz Anton in Round 1, as well as Philippines international striker Quinley Quezada, star off-season recruit Isobel Dalton and Tia Stonehill.

All four players are predicted to fight for a spot in Epakis’ matchday squad on Sunday evening against a Jets side seeking back-to-back wins to begin 2023-24.

“I think we might be in a position to have a full squad available,” said Epakis.

“The reality is that our strength is in our depth and having internal competition is important as it pushes the group and come game-day, the players are so primed because of that.

“Anyone who comes into the squad or off the bench, we know they’re going to make an impact.”

Opta stat: Newcastle Jets will be aiming for back-to-back wins to begin an A-League Women season for just the third time in the history of the competition (W2 – 2011-2012 and W2 – 2017-2018), following their 1-0 win against Central Coast Mariners in their first game of the 2023-24 campaign.

Perth Glory v Newcastle Jets
Sunday, October 22 2023
HBF Park
Kick-off: 5:00PM (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+, 10 Play

Sunday, 5.45pm (AEDT): Western Sydney Wanderers v Wellington Phoenix

Wellington Phoenix defender Mackenzie Barry admitted she’s disappointed not to be coming up against former teammate and fellow New Zealand international Milly Clegg when the ‘Nix visit Western Sydney Wanderers at CommBank Stadium on Sunday evening.

Clegg joined the Wanderers from Wellington in the off-season – but ironically, having played in the Liberty A-League last season, is now unable to feature in the league until November 1 due to moving overseas prior to her 18th birthday.

“Yeah a little bit (disappointed)!” Barry said in the lead-up to the game.

“I think she’s feeling a little bit hard done by, too. But I’ll come up against her again, so that’s alright.

“It should be a really close game; I think the Wanderers have always played well (against us).”

This Sunday’s double-header at CommBank Stadium between the Wanderers and Phoenix sees a near-40-year story of connectivity between Blacktown City and Porirua Wellington celebrated with the Sister Cities Shield.

The two clubs first battled for the Sister Cities Shield in 2018 and five years later it’s a celebration across both the Liberty A-League and Isuzu UTE A-League with the result of both the men’s fixture (3pm AEDT) and women’s fixture (5.45pm AEDT) combining to decide this season’s winner of the shield.

Opta stat: Wellington Phoenix have won two of their last three A-League Women matches away from Sky Stadium (L1), including a 3-1 victory in their most recent such fixture (28 March 2023 v Adelaide United); the Phoenix will be aiming for back-to-back wins away from their home venue for the first time in the history of the competition.

Western Sydney Wanderers v Wellington Phoenix
Sunday, October 22 2023
CommBank Stadium
Kick-off: 5:45 (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+, 10 Play