Australia 3-1 New Zealand
By Ben Gilby (12/4/22)
Above: The Matildas celebrate with two goal Sam Kerr tonight in Canberra against New Zealand. Photo: Football Australia.
Australia produced a dominant first-half performance, scoring three goals in a 17 minute spell to see off New Zealand in Canberra.
That opening 45-minute showing saw the Matildas convert a greater percentage of their shots on goal than in recent performances. Whilst building a big lead half-time lead can often lead to a second half-drop off, there does remain an element of frustration about a more pedestrian second-half which saw the hosts fail to impose their overall dominance onto the scoreboard.
The real positives again came from players coming into the squad. Alex Chidiac’s eagerly awaited arrival from the bench brought a superb cameo involving stunning flicks, eye of the needle passes into space, and energetic running. Whilst slightly more shackled this time by Katie Bowen, Katrina Gorry also produced another performance to be proud of.
The Matildas went into the game with just the one change as Caitlin Foord came in to start ahead of Kyah Simon. Cortnee Vine, so dangerous in the final stages on Friday in the first friendly between the two sides was unavailable due to a late injury.
New Zealand brought Erin Naylor in for the hugely impressive Victoria Esson in goal, with Mikayla Moore staying in for the injured Ria Percival.
The earliest stages saw some attacking vim and vigour from the Football Ferns as they imposed a pacey high press which resulted in forcing some defensive errors from Australia in the form of loose passes.
It was not long though before Australia began to impose themselves on proceedings. Naylor had to make her first save with just three minutes on the clock after Foord played Steph Catley in along the right. Claudia Bunge’s clearance fell to Hayley Raso who hit a cross shot which the Ferns goalkeeper gathered under the bar.
New Zealand pressured the Matildas defence shortly afterwards as Hannah Wilkinson was played through and beat the off-side trap. Clare Polkinghorne and Alanna Kennedy failed to close her down sufficiently and the Melbourne City striker’s shot was narrowly wide of the far post.
The Ferns suffered a set-back before the 10th minute when Paige Satchell went down with what looked like breathing difficulties. She would eventually leave the pitch to be replaced by Gabi Rennie, but took her place on the bench which alleviated any initial major concerns.
Australia stepped up the intensity, and unlike Friday, got almost immediate rewards. With a quarter of an hour played, Steph Catley’s corner was headed home by an unmarked Sam Kerr. It was a trademark Kerr goal from a set-piece, but major questions need to be asked about an international defence giving the Chelsea star that sort of freedom.
Two minutes later, the Matildas doubled their advantage as Gorry’s pass through came back off Bowen and into the path of Raso to curl a shot into the far corner of the net on the bounce. Whilst it may have been fortuitous that the ball fell to her, it was a superb finish by the Manchester City player.
At this stage, Australia had scored two goals from their three shots on target – something which after the wastefulness of last week’s encounter was a positive.
New Zealand’s defensive organization was a major plus point from Friday’s game, but this time round, they were struggling and guilty of ball watching too often. Being under constant pressure will always highten the possibilities of errors, yet the Ferns showed previously that they can do it. The challenge now is to do it more often, as when the World Cup comes round, lapses will prove costly.
Just after the half-hour mark, it was 3-0. Emily van Egmond’s long ball allowed Kerr to beat Ali Riley and run comfortably between two defenders and roll home a finish into the far corner.
With 73% possession, The Matildas were still looking for more goals. Kerr squared a ball across which New Zealand could only clear into the path of Ellie Carpenter, but Naylor saved well.
Two minutes into stoppage time, Australia paid the price for a momentary slip of concentration at the back when Olivia Chance released Wilkinson who advanced towards goal. Lydia Williams blocked the initial shot but the Ferns’ striker won the physical battle with Polkinghorne and hit an effort between the Matildas’ defender’s legs which went in.
Whilst the Matildas came out firing at the start of the second period, with Foord hitting an effort against the bar, the pace began to ease. Australia were comfortable in possession, but were not able to replicate the creation of chances that had come before.
In a bid to inject more energy, Matildas’ head coach Tony Gustavsson brought on five substitutes, including Alex Chidiac who went into midfield along side Gorry. The Melbourne Victory A-League Women champion’s first touch was sublime – a flick with the outside of the foot. She was threading balls through holes beautifully.
Carpenter then made a break along the right and crossed in. Sub Tameka Yallop managed to rescue it at the back post with a first time volley across for Kerr who headed wide of the left hand post. Shortly afterwards, there was a potential penalty shout as Ferns goalkeeper Naylor looked to have made contact with Kerr in the box, but nothing was given.
The final 20 minutes saw New Zealand have the greater share of possession and territory. Chance hit a lofted shot which Williams needed to be alive to, but they couldn’t get any closer.
Whilst this was a comfortable win for Australia, there is still plenty to work on for head coach Tony Gustavsson. More 90 minute performances, consistently tighter defence, and continuing to focus on taking chances when they come remain the focus.
Teams: AUSTRALIA: Williams, Carpenter, Kennedy, Polkinghorne, Catley, van Egmond, Foord, Fowler, Raso, Gorry, Kerr. Substitutes: Simon (for Raso 58′), Yallop (for Foord 58′), Wheeler (for van Egmond 58′), Luik (for Polkinghorne 58′), Chidiac (for Fowler 58′), Grant (for Kennedy 72′).
Scorers: Kerr 15′, 32. Raso 17′.
NEW ZEALAND: Naylor, Riley, Moore, Bunge, Hassett, Green, Cleverley, Bowen, Chance, Wilkinson, Satchell. Substitutes: Rennie (for Satchell 20′), Steinmetz (for Cleverley 46′), Ward (for Green 46′), Jale (for Hassett 48′), Stott (for Wilkinson 69′), Rolston (for Rennie 78′).
Scorer: Wilkinson 45+2′.
Referee: Haruna Kanematsu (JPN).