Hopkins happy after youthful Victory holds Jiangsu


Jeff Hopkins was delighted with his youthful Melbourne Victory side after a 1-1 draw with Jiangsu Suning at the AFC Women’s Club Championship.

Grace Maher’s first-half header was cancelled out by Tang Jiali in Yongin before Victory held on for a point against the Chinese champion on Thursday.

It was a young Victory outfit as Alana Jancevski and Paige Zois, both 16, made their debuts for the club, while Polly Doran (18), Maher and Melina Ayres (20) and Emma Robers (21) started.

Hopkins was pleased with his young team, which was without star captain Natasha Dowie due to illness.

“I’m very, very happy with the result against a very good side,” he told reporters.

“I think we executed our game plan as well as we could expect. I think Tabitha (Chawinga) up front is always a threat on the counter-attack and for most of the game we kind of nullified that so I was very happy.

“We had something to prove to ourselves. We were disappointed with the game (against Incheon Hyundai Steel Red Angels) overall a couple of days ago, with Natasha Dowie, our captain, out through a stomach virus on top of that.

“We gave a couple of 16-year-olds debuts as well and really flipped the side around.

“We were a little bit disjointed in the first half, but what pleased me about the performance was we stayed in the game, we worked hard through the periods where our opponent dominated us for small periods in the first half and we readjusted at half-time.

“There were a few scary moments in the second half but in general I thought the girls really set about doing what we asked them to do in the second half and looked at times reasonably comfortable.”

Victory will wrap up its campaign against Japanese champion Nippon TV Beleza on Saturday.

That shapes as another huge test for Victory, but it is one Hopkins and his players are embracing.

“We’re really excited about it. It’s a team full of Japanese internationals, a Japanese team that is very well thought of in Australia, very well respected,” he said.

“I think already the players are excited to play and it’s going to be a real test for our coaching, for our tactics and for our players as well so really looking forward to it.”

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