Australia U23 4-1 Singapore
by Kieran Yap (10/7/22)
Above: Australia celebrate Winonah Heatley’s early goal that put them ahead against Singapore today. Photo: Football Australia.
The Australian Under 23’s defeated Singapore’s senior side 4-1 in a dominant performance amid torrential rain in Manila.
Australia needed a big win to give them a realistic chance at second place. Thailand and the Philippines look like they will proceed to the semi-finals. However, Australia’s next generation of stars looked at home at international level and have been improving throughout the tournament.
After a 4-0 win over Indonesia, Mel Andreatta rotated the squad again. Chloe Lincoln started in goal, Naomi Chinnama came into defence with Winonah Heatley, Chelsea Blissett, and Alexia Apostolakis.
Katie Godden started up front in her first appearance of the tournament, and Paige Zois joined up with Hana Lowry and Sarah Hunter in midfield. Abbey Lemon and Caitlin Karic started in the wide areas.
It took only 10 minutes for Australia to open the scoring. Zois’s corner kick swung in from the left and Heatley nodded home from a few yards out. It was a dangerous ball in, with swerve and precision. Heatley rose highest and the captain got her side off to a perfect start.
A few minutes later, it was another corner kick and another goal. This time it was Hana Lowry on set-piece duty from the other side. Sarah Hunter was the target, and her header crossed the line by the barest of margins.
Australia had both goals from set-pieces, but they were also dominating in central midfield. Alexia Apostolakis was used in the unfamiliar left-back role and spent much of her time in the attacking third. She was unlucky not to score but tested the Singaporean keeper with a good first-time shot.
Mel Andreatta made some changes in the second half. Charli Grant, Sheridan Gallagher, Jyana Dos Santos, and Daniella Galic were introduced over the next 45 minutes. All would make an impact with Gallagher adding a shooting threat while Galic pulled the strings in attack.
Hana Lowry added a third goal when she tapped home from another corner. It was a simple finish, but the Perth Glory playmaker had created the chance with a terrific through ball that nearly set Apostolakis through on goal.
Grant added an extra threat on the right, she combined with Karic to make for a frighteningly quick and direct wing. A long run from the senior Matildas right back beat multiple defenders but the move was blocked by a swarming Singaporean defence. It was a reminder of what she can do at her turbo-charged best.
Sheridan Gallagher made it 4-0 with a spectacular goal. Chinnama started the move with some good defensive work that led to an attack. After a rushed Singapore clearance and some aerial ping-pong, the ball was well controlled by Jyana Dos-Santos. She held it up well and created some space for herself before playing back to Zois who found Gallagher on the left flank.
The Western Sydney Wanderers striker cut inside and from about 25 yards out, she hit an unstoppable shot into the net. After coming close earlier in the half, and some other near misses against Thailand, Gallagher had her goal, and it was worth the wait.
Australia were in cruise control. But as the conditions became wetter, the chances dried up. Singapore scored a late consolation goal in bizarre circumstances.
Nur Umairah Hamdan took a free-kick from near the halfway line. The flight of the ball and the bounce deceived Lincoln who was off her line. Australia’s goalkeeper had been confident and untroubled until that 88th minute, but could only catch the ball over the line. It was a frustrating end to an otherwise strong performance.
Australia has one more game to play on Tuesday against Malaysia. They will want to end the tournament on a high note and most players will want to head to the Under 20 World Cup in strong form.
So far, they have spent the AFF Women’s championship in a state of steady improvement despite massive squad rotations, player unavailability, and senior opposition. A big win in what might be their final game in Manila is a deserving way to bow out.
Teams: AUSTRALIA U23: Lincoln, Hunter, Heatley, Chinnama, Godden, Lowry, Lemon, Zois, Blissett, Apostolakis, Karic.
Scorers: Heatley 12’, Hunter 16’, Lowry 46’, Gallagher 70’.
SINGAPORE: Kusumawati, Mastura, Umairah, Fatin, Syazwani, Nadhra, Dhaniyah, Stephanie, Putri, Izzati, Claire.
Scorer: Umairah 88’.
Referee: Supiree Testomya (Thailand).