Kim Little is determined to show what we’ve learnt from our opening UEFA Women’s Champions League clash with Ajax.
Our captain scored in the first leg at Meadow Park last week as we were held to a 2-2 draw, but admitted that we struggled to play through their press and failed to maintain our usual standards.
Kim spoke to the media on Tuesday night and this is what she said:
on whether Ajax’s first-half performance surprised us in the first leg…
I don’t think it was a shock because we were very aware of coming into the Champions League and playing against teams from other countries who are very capable. We obviously analysed Ajax before in detail – what they were about and how they would come at us.
I think we were aware of it but we maybe didn’t deal with it as well as we could have in the game, and that’s definitely something – their intensity, their press and their man-marking – we need to be more on top of it. I think we were prepared for it; we just didn’t provide the solutions in the game as well as we wanted to, which meant I think at times in the game we struggled. But I think we’re in a good position now to be aware of that and to put in a better performance tomorrow.
on the importance of the game tomorrow…
Yeah, it’s incredibly important. I think our ambitions as a club are always to be in the Champions League and to progress through it and obviously to be a part of the group stages, which we were a part of last year. We know the importance of the game and our responsibility as players is to make sure we put on a performance tomorrow and to make sure we get the win that we need to progress.
on how well the performance against Spurs has set us up for the Ajax game…
I think off the back of the game last week, it was a great performance to make us understand our strengths and how we can control games if we do the right things and combat the team we’re playing. I think in that sense it was good, but I think also it’s still on us to be aware that that was one game and now we’re on to the next, so it will be very different.
We need to make sure that we bring the things that we did well in that game against Tottenham on Saturday, but we also know that we need to do more and we need to be better because I think there were also elements to the performance that we can improve on.
on wider pressure to make it through to the group stages…
I think generally we switch off from that. We know that we have the capability to progress to the next stage and we need to make sure that we do all we can to prepare, and if we take care of that then we will progress, so first and foremost that’s what we as players look at.
For me, it adds excitement, it adds pressure which is part of what we do and is what makes it so exciting and enjoyable to play in. You have this group stage now – it’s a similar format to what the men’s [game] has had in the past – and it’s such a great competition to be a part of, so we obviously want to do everything we can to make sure we progress to that stage.
on the boost that the performance against Spurs gives us ahead of this game…
We're aware of our strengths as a team and I think the occasion on Saturday was a great one for the whole club, but again it’s football and it’s all about the next performance. So we move on from that, obviously taking away what we did well, but recognising that this game tomorrow will be very different and that we need to be very aware of that and on the ball when different situations come our way in the game.
We definitely take positives from that game, where we did some great things, but we need to be adaptable and be aware that every game is different.
on having less time on the ball against Ajax compared to Brighton and Spurs…
Yeah, I think it’s obviously part of being a footballer at this level – you come up against different systems. Some are more zonal, and some are more man-marking, like Ajax are. As a midfielder, it just means you have to play in a slightly different way to manipulate the space and create opportunities going forward.
So yeah, you’re definitely aware of that and it's about recognising those situations in the game when it’s man-marking, when it’s more zonal, and how you create that space. As players, we thrive off that challenge and I think it’s a huge part of football and whoever can adapt to that best is obviously who will come out on top in the game. I think it’s challenging but it’s something that makes you better within any game.
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