Best of the Press: Socceroo aims to banish ‘horrific’ defeat as coach issues apology for derby comments is your one-stop shop for the best of the pre-weekend media activity ahead of what’s set to be an enthralling Round 26 in the Isuzu UTE A-League.


Rudan rallies the troops ahead of do-or-die clash with Melbourne City

Arguably the biggest game of the round takes place at CommBank Stadium where Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City will duke it out in a game City boss Aurelio Vidmar has described as a ‘Grand Final’.

The Wanderers head into the contest sat in the all-important sixth spot on the ladder, one point clear of City with two games left to play.

Defeat to bitter rivals Sydney FC last week coupled with Melbourne City’s 8-0 drubbing of Perth Glory has left the Wanderers feeling the pressure going into the home game, however head coach Marko Rudan says they’re ready for what lies ahead.

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“There’s still another game to go but clearly, this is a big game,” said Rudan when speaking at his pre-game press conference. “We know that. It’s a big game for our football club, our players, our staff and our fans most importantly.

“We understand what’s at stake and we’re ready for it.”

Asked whether or not he was using their recent 7-0 loss to Melbourne City as a motivating factor ahead of this contest, Rudan revealed he was focusing on a different game altogether.

“I’ve decided to talk about our 1-0 win against them at home. We’re at home, we’re not away. They’re also a different team in their backyard. Their big wins have come against us, Brisbane and Perth at AAMI Park.

“We’re gonna need our fans this week as well, they were sensational last week, you know, we apologise for not getting what we should have got. I don’t think we deserved to lose that game but we need them this week, they’re going to be huge for us.”

Already shorn of talented attackers Nicolas Milanovic and Lachlan Brook due to Olyroos duty, the Wanderers head into the must-win clash without Socceroo Brandon Borrello and defender Tom Beadling after both suffered season-ending injuries in the Sydney Derby defeat.

“When you start to lose players that are important players for the spine, it’s hard to replace and when you look at the teams that are doing well, they haven’t had to face those kind of problems.

He added: “From Borrello earlier in the season to Lawrence Thomas, to (Jorrit) Hendrix, Josh Brillante – the list can go on and on.”

With Borrello now ruled out for the remainder of the campaign due to a hamstring injury young attacker Marcus Younis could be one of a number of young players Rudan turns to in order to help fill the void left by the Socceroo.

Younis featured off the bench for the Wanderers against Sydney FC but drew criticism from his coach after the game due to his perceived role in the Sky Blues’ winning goal – criticism his boss now regrets.

“I was wrong in what I said after the game, I think I was a little bit too temperamental,” admitted Rudan at his press conference ahead of the clash with Melbourne City. “I was really unhappy with what we all saw when it all unfolded.

“I don’t normally do that, you know, call out a player after game. I shouldn’t have done that, I should have been better than that.

He continued: “I spoke to Marcus the next morning about that and told him, you know that you weren’t at fault, because it’s never just one individual, right? So I take full responsibility and blame for that.

“That’s not what I want for my youngsters. I always talk about trying to improve them, give them a lot of confidence. The kid did a lot of good things when he came on as well. So it was harsh of me and wrong of me to have said what I said after the game.”

Glory Skipper puts individual honours to one side as Perth aim to put a bad week behind them

Perth Glory captain Adam Taggart says he and his teammates are out to banish the memory of last week’s humiliating defeat to Melbourne City.

Alen Stajcic’s side are currently sat bottom of the ladder with two games left to play following back-to-back defeats in the Isuzu UTE A-League, the most recent of which came in the form of an 8-0 annihilation at AAMI Park.

“Obviously it’s a frustrating feeling around the place, everyone’s very disappointed and upset,” said Taggart when addressing the media ahead of this weekend’s game. “It was obviously even more disappointing with that loss being the Tour of Duty game and having so many of our loyal fans who have been following us around.

“The good thing is that we’ve got an opportunity on Sunday to turn it around with a big game against second bottom. For us and myself, you know, it’s a massive goal to not finish bottom.”

Speaking specifically about the manner of their heavy loss to Melbourne City, Taggart says that as club captain, he’s expecting his teammates to come out and put on a show at HBF Park.

“I think you see it in sport throughout the world, the first game back after a big defeat, especially our one being in the horrific way that it was, you know, I’d expect that everyone comes out fully firing.

“You can see that everyone feels really disappointed and, you know, almost embarrassed of ourselves with us representing this city and the club.”

A 2-1 away win over Western Sydney Wanderers in late January prompted a six game unbeaten run for the Glory which saw them steadily rise up the table after picking up three wins during that time.

However defeat to Western United back at the beginning of March brought an end to that run and Stajcic’s side haven’t tasted victory since, a run which now stands at seven games and has left them rooted to the bottom of the ladder.

Despite that poor run of form though one thing that has remained consistent throughout the campaign is the impressive goalscoring form of Adam Taggart.

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Currently sat on 17 goals for the season, Taggart is one behind Bruno Fornaroli in the race for the Golden Boot however the 30-year-old insists his focus remains on helping the team first, rather than prioritise individual honours.

“Especially getting older, those things probably become less important. I love scoring goals on a week to week basis. It’s a fantastic feeling, especially at home, it’s my favourite thing to do in the world.

“So winning an award for it isn’t necessarily the most important thing to me anymore. Especially in the position that we’re in, I think it’s just important that we don’t finish last.”

Victory building momentum at just the right time according to Popovic

They may have suffered an agonising late loss to Wellington Phoenix but Melbourne Victory boss Tony Popovic believes his side are heading into the business end of the season in good shape.

“We feel we’ve been building momentum since the international break in terms of performance and results,” said Popovic when speaking at his pre-match media conference ahead Victory’s home game with Brisbane Roar this weekend.

“And now it’s another opportunity. You know, against Brisbane, we lost our last encounter, which was, you could probably say, arguably our worst performance of the year, and we got what we deserved that day with a defeat.

“Now we’re at home, we’re coming towards the last couple of games this season with finals, it’s an important match to really put forward another good performance and we know that a win would be key.”

Prior to that 1-0 loss to Wellington last time out, Victory had been on a four-game unbeaten streak which consisted of three wins and a draw, a run which coincidentally came off the back of a disappointing defeat to Brisbane back in early March – and it’s a result Popovic is using as a point of reference heading into Saturday’s clash.

“I addressed it after the game which is very rare that I’ve said that this year, we just didn’t work,” said Popovic when asked what he took away from that loss to Brisbane.

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“The conditions were difficult and we struggled physically, mentally, you know, our work rate wasn’t to a level that gives you a chance to win a game of football.

“We haven’t lost many games this year but that was one that we deserved to lose on that aspect. Since then, we’ve been consistently good and we’re looking forward to the game.”

Talay hammers home importance of securing home Elimination Final

Having secured a spot in this year’s Finals Series thanks to that dramatic win over the Wanderers in the Sydney Derby, Ufuk Talay has now challenged his Sydney FC side to lay down a marker by beating Macarthur on Saturday.

Currently fourth on the ladder, Sydney are level on points with the Bulls but sit ahead of their opponents on the by virtue of having one more win and they head into Saturday evening’s clash at Campbelltown Sports Stadium knowing a win will guarantee them a top four finish, and with it, a home Elimination Final.

“We play in front of our own crowd, we’ll play in a familiar stadium, we won’t have to travel which is very important too,” said Talay when asked how much difference it makes when you finish in the top four.

“We want to win our last two games and get ourselves in a position where we’re playing a home final.”

Asked if he’s now looking at who the Sky Blues could potentially face in this season’s Finals Series and whether or not their next two results could impact that, Talay was blunt with his response.

“No. Look, at the end of the day you still need to play the Elimination Final and you still need to beat the team that you’re playing against.

“If we start to think that we’re smarter than the opponents and we try to say ‘we need to draw this game or we need to win this game to get ourselves in this position, we want to play this opponent’ the reality is we want to finish as high as possible and whoever comes up against us we still need to win that game.”

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One player expected to line up for the Sky Blues on Saturday evening is young central defender Hayden Matthews.

The 18-year-old has impressed for the club since coming into the side earlier this season with reports also suggesting he’s gaining interest from clubs overseas.

“Well Hayden’s got a few extra years on his contract at the moment,” laughed Talay when asked how much longer fans could expect Matthews to be at the club following his good start to life in Sky Blue.

“But the reality is with football, when young players are doing well the opportunity may arise for him to go overseas.

“I’m sure he has that ambition to go overseas and challenge himself. At the moment he’s our player and we’ll utilise him the best we can and at the moment, he’s doing a fantastic job.”