Matildas shot-stopper unpacks the evolution of goalkeeping

Victory have been on a tear this season and a 2-0 win over a Canberra United side who had notched 15 goals prior to the contest was a case in point. 

While the likes of McKenzie Weinert and Kurea Okino have stolen most of the headlines for their attacking exploits, Victory’s solid defence has been integral to their six-match unbeaten run.  

Speaking on Dub Zone, goalkeeper Lydia Williams explained the game plan head coach Jeff Hopkins conceived in an attempt to keep Canberra’s attackers quiet.      

“I think after (Canberra’s 5-1) result last weekend, we knew that they’re a team that loves to transition and get a lot of their joy and goals through that so for us it was how do we nullify that attack,” Williams said. 

“If we lose the ball, if they have a period of play – how do we make sure they don’t play to their strengths?”

“I think the defence did an amazing job, Jeff’s message going into the week of how do we stop their strength and continue to play our strength which is keeping the ball in possession and I think we did that really well.”

Victory was already in the ascendancy heading into the second half, but the red card to Canberra goalkeeper Chloe Lincoln swung the momentum in their favour even further. 

Lincoln was sent off after she stepped out of the penalty area to foul Rachel Lowe who was fast approaching. 

Williams gave her take on the incident, drawing on her personal experience of having to make a decision on the fly in a one-on-one situation with an on-rushing attacker.  

“I mean obviously if a team’s defensive line is playing higher up the pitch, as a goalkeeper – depending on what the coach wants and how you are playing – you have to be in line with whatever the height of that game is,” she said. 

“But as a goalkeeper when you’re out of the box, you have to win the ball because it is a red card if you don’t. 

“Different if you’re in the box, it’s just a yellow card and a penalty so it’s just that decision-making of ‘Are you coming or are you going?’ ‘How do you actually win it?’ ‘Are you staying and letting your defenders go?’”

Former Western Sydney Wanderers boss Catherine Cannuli pointed to how the role of goalkeepers has evolved from a mere shot-stopper to becoming an extra body in possession depending on the tactical instructions of the coach. 

“The game has evolved so much and the goalkeeper plays such a major part in the way the team is actually set up,” Cannuli said.  

“We talk about coaches’ philosophies and before it would be left to more so just the goalkeeper coach, but now we’re going off what the actual head coach wants and in terms of your positioning.”

Williams agreed: “Definitely, I guess it depends on threats of the opposition as well because if it’s speedy wingers or a speedy forward and they’re looking to play transitional all the time you can afford to be higher. 

“But if it’s a team that likes to possess the ball, you can drop a little bit more so it really depends on the coaching organisation and how they want to defend first and how that looks as a goalkeeper.”