Never Say Die Matildas Take It At The Death

Australia 2-1 New Zealand

By Ben Gilby (8/4/22)

Above: The Matildas celebrate Sam Kerr’s late winner against the Football Ferns in Townsvile today. Photo: Football Australia.

Australia turned the game on its head with two goals in stoppage time at the end of 90 minutes to defeat New Zealand 2-1 in Townsville.

The Matildas were dominant throughout with 16 shots on target to the Football Ferns one and earned 72% of possession. Yet, as was the case during the Asian Cup, they failed to turn these chances into goals and trailed from just after the half-hour mark.

Australia named Katrina Gorry in their starting line-up, for her first international appearance in over 800 days after a pause in her career to give birth. The midfielder was deployed in the number six role which allowed Emily van Egmond the potential to get forward more. Who to fill the number six position for The Matildas has been an issue for Tony Gustavsson for some time. In the first half, Gorry offered enough in her link-up play to suggest that she offers a solution.

New Zealand had not beaten Australia since October 1994. In the intervening 27 and a half years, the Matildas had won 26 of the 29 matches between the two sides. For much of the first half, it looked as though that trend would continue.

Put simply, Australia were rampant – but in a worrying flashback to their Asian Cup campaign, for all the possession held and shots on target (71% and six shots to one in the first half alone), they could not translate that into a scoreboard lead.

The Matildas imposed their high press, fast passing game from the off with Gorry and Fowler prominent. The latter, made herself available both wide and centrally and gave yet another performance of maturity and skill way beyond her teenage years.

It took Australia just three minutes to fashion their first chance when Victoria Esson saved Hayley Raso’s shot after the Manchester City star was played in by Fowler. Less than 60 seconds later, Kyah Simon got up highest to direct a thumping header narrowly wide.

The pressure continued to build and with nine minutes on the clock, Simon had a shot blocked on the left which was recycled back into the box by Steph Catley. Clare Polkinghorne directed a header goalwards but Esson stretched out a left palm to deny the Queenslander with a sensational save.

There were more difficulties for the Football Ferns when Spurs’ Ria Percival twisted her knee when changing direction off the ball and had to leave the pitch to be replaced by Meikayla Moore.

Shortly afterwards, there was another opportunity for Australia as Fowler’s long ball found Alanna Kennedy near the six-yard box. The Manchester City defender’s flick header was claimed by Esson.

With 26 minutes played, New Zealand earned their first corner which only led to another Matildas attack after Polkinghorne comfortably headed clear. Raso made yards down the right and squared for Kerr but to no avail.

As was all too familiar from Australia’s last outing against Korea in the Asia Cup Quarter-Finals, creating umpteen chances and missing them can often lead to disaster. Just after the half hour, Meikayla Moore, on as a sub for the injured Percival hit a long ball from central midfield for Anna Green on the left. Green hit a sensational shot on the volley which, some will claim was an attempt at a cross, flew into the far corner. Whilst there was a whiff of offside about it, the goal stood and it was another nasty reminder for Australia of their nightmare in India.

Above: New Zealand celebrate Anna Green’s superb goal. Photo: NZ Football.

The second half was a similar story. Caitlin Foord was introduced for her hundredth cap in place of Kyah Simon. Raso sped along the right and cut in to hit a shot which Esson smothered well. Shortly afterwards, Fowler hit an effort from the ‘D’ which was held by the impressive Football Ferns goalkeeper.

The Matildas were now laying siege to the New Zealand goal. Foord saw an effort come back off the bar, Fowler hit a shot narrowly over the top and Claudia Bunge was forced to clear off the line. Still Australia could not score.

At this stage, it seemed puzzling that Tony Gustavsson was not making changes. He had highlighted in his media conference the day before that we would see lots of rotation in the game to aid players, some of whom only arrived on Wednesday, but his second substitute was not made until the 78th minute when Tameka Yallop replaced Mary Fowler. The Matildas head coach would explain in his post-match media conference that in-action stats coming through meant that the starting players were not showing signs of fatigue that necessitated their replacement amidst the team’s domination. For coverage of the full post-match media conference, click here:

Cortnee Vine, an absolute sensation for Sydney FC in the A-League Women and one of the positives from the Asia Cup disappointments came on in stoppage time at the end of the match. Despite only being part of the action for a short period, Vine showed her worth as the game turned with typical Matildas never-say-die spirit.

Above: Australian joy after equalizing. Photo: Football Australia.

Four minutes into stoppage time, Carpenter went on a typically marauding run along the right and cut back for van Egmond to sweep home a side-footed shot.

Then, just two minutes later, great work from Vine along the right won a corner from Bunge. Catley curled an effort in which was met by the head of Kennedy and Kerr nipped in to nod home from just outside the six-yard box.

It was a staggering turnaround. In terms of chances created, possession and spirit, Australia deserved the win. Yet, you can’t help but feel that the problem of turning chances into goals is an issue that needs solving.

New Zealand were well organized and defended superbly. It was a devastating way for the game to end, but Jitka Klimková’s side will take many positives from this.

Above: The Australia team line-up in Townsville before kick-off. Photo: Football Australia.

Teams: AUSTRALIA: Williams, Catley, Polkinghorne, Kennedy, Carpenter, Fowler, van Egmond, Gorry, Raso, Kerr, Simon. Substitutes used: Foord (for Simon), Yallop (for Fowler), Vine (for Raso).

Scorers: van Egmond 90+4′, Kerr 90+6′.

NEW ZEALAND: Esson, Bowen, Bunge, Green, Riley, Cleverley, Hassett, Percival, Chance, Satchell, Wilkinson. Substitutes: Moore (for Percival), Rennie (for Hassett), Anton (for Green), Collins (for Satchell), Steinmetz (for Cleverley), Jale (for Chance).

Scorer: Green 32′.

Attendance: 10,779.

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