Sweden 4-2 Australia
By Ben Gilby
Sweden reinforced their status as many people’s new favourites for the Gold Medal with a ruthless victory over Australia this morning (Stina Blackstenius pictured scoring their fourth goal via The Guardian).
The major news pre-game was that Sweden welcomed back Magda Eriksson after she was forced to leave the friendly between the two sides back in June. For The Matildas, Teagan Micah, who has been in impressive form since making her debut in that aforementioned game against the Swedes, replaced Lydia Williams in goal.
Australia began the clash with Hayley Raso targeting Jonna Andersson on both flanks – a ploy that worked so successfully for the Everton star when she faced the Swede in her club shirt in an FA Cup tie in May.
Sweden were allowing Australia to play a patient passing build-up through the midfield, with the Scandinavians’ strong defence able to nullify any threat once the Matildas got close to the box.
Caitlin Foord was energetic and busy early on in the middle third but despite the amount of possession that Australia were generating, they were not able to force Hedvig Lindahl into making saves.
This failure to turn possession into goals came back to haunt the Matildas with 20 minutes on the clock when Kosovare Asllani fed Filippa Angeldahl and her low cross wrong footed Clare Polkinghorne which allowed Fridolina Rolfo to score.
Australia’s immediate response underlined their first half performance: great approach work and movement, comfortable on the ball, but around the box moves fell apart with regularity with the final ball being a major issue.
Sweden forced two corners around the half hour mark, from the second, Angeldahl volleyed wide directly from Micah’s punch clear.
Then, at last, the Matildas produced a final ball of real quality and reaped the reward instantly. Kyah Simon curled in a glorious cross for Kerr to head goal wards. Lindahl got a hand to the ball but couldn’t stop it from crossing the line and Australia were level. Kerr’s header ensured she became her country’s all-time record scorer at the Olympic Games.
Five minutes before the break, Hana Glas and Sam Kerr were involved in a challenge on the left hand edge of the six yard box which brought a contrasting verbal exchange from the two teams. The Swedes were audibly appealing for a yellow card for what they viewed as a Kerr dive, with the Australian captain herself heard to be urging referee Edina Alves “you gotta look at that!” In the end neither side got their wish, and it was a goal kick. It remained 1-1 at the break.
The Matildas came out firing at the start of the second half. A glorious diagonal ball found Foord. The Arsenal star put in a beautiful cross for Kerr who comfortably got in ahead of Andersson to score.
However, that was as good as it got for Australia as familiar defensive issues raised their head once more. Tony Gustavsson’s shifting from a back five to a back three is very much a work in progress and Sweden took advantage.
Australia’s lead lasted for just four minutes. Angeldahl was involved once more for the Swedes in the build-up as she played in Sofia Jakobsson whose teasing cross was met by Lina Hurtig, who got in ahead of Ellie Carpenter to slot home.
The Swedes took the lead just gone the hour mark when Rolfo was allowed acres of space to run into and smash home from outside the box for the culmination of just over ten minutes of total Swedish domination.
Tony Gustavsson introduced Alanna Kennedy and Kyra Cooney-Cross in a bid to re-set and re-charge the ranks and it led to a flurry of more controlled and consistent possession.
Shortly afterwards, the Matildas had a great chance to level when VAR adjudged that Angeldahl caught Foord in the box and a penalty was awarded. Kerr stepped up, but Lindahl produced a great one handed stop as Australia’s woes from the penalty spot continued.
Into the final ten minutes, Sweden had now contained Australia once more and they took advantage to clinch victory and their Quarter-Final place with a game to spare when Aslllani aimed a clever cross between Polkinghorne and Kerr which allowed substitute Stina Blackstenius, in red hot form for BK Hacken, to make it 4-2.
Mary Fowler produced another promising cameo from the bench for the Matildas and she played a beautiful inch perfect ball into the path of Kerr with four minutes left, but the Chelsea star’s side footed effort was saved by Lindahl.
In the end, Sweden were far more cohesive and had superior know-how both in terms of defensive organisation and offensive ruthlessness.
In their first game against New Zealand, the Matildas were able win despite failing to turn possession and chances into goals. This morning, Sweden provided Tony Gustavsson’s side with a very painful lesson of what the top sides do to you when possession isn’t converted onto the scoreboard.
Teams: SWEDEN: Lindahl, Glas, Ilestedt, Eriksson, Andersson, Angeldahl, Asllani, Seger, Jakobsson, Hurtig, Rolfo. Substitutes used: Bjorn (for Glas), Blackstenius (for Hurtig), Bennison (for Angeldahl), Schough (for Jakobsson) Janogy (for Rolfo).
Scorers: Rolfo 20, 63 Hurtig 51 Blackstenius 81.
AUSTRALIA: Micah, Luik, Polkinghorne, Carpenter, Catley, Yallop, Van Egmond, Raso, Foord, Kerr, Simon. Substitutes used: Kennedy (for Luik), Cooney-Cross (for Yallop), Fowler (for Raso), Gielnik (for Simon).
Scorers: Kerr 35, 47.
Referee: Edina Alves (BRA).
Ben Gilby writes for Beyond90, Australia’s leading independent women’s football platform. Visit https://beyond90.com.au/