An experienced Matildas spine proved pivotal in Tony Gustavsson’s experimental line-up to help guide the young faces in their 2-1 win against a fighting Thai outfit.
The starting line-up for the Matildas in Mumbai at first glance was a perplexing one, but after being criticised for letting his stars play major minutes in the 18-0 beat up of Indonesia, Gustavsson knew what he was doing. There were nine changes to the starting side that beat the Philippines 4-0, with many on their first national start.
The first half looked a little frustrating in places, but in the final ten minutes of the first half they looked more solid and composed, moving with intent and purpose.
Cortnee Vine was again a feature, making the Thai players around her look slow, moving the ball with pace and providing a spark on the right hand side both down back and up front for her team. Remy Siemsen worked well with Vine up forward, and Charli Grant and Clare Wheeler came into their own the longer the game wore on.
Holly McNamara was involved in nearly everything, however worried supporters after going off with injured with a leg injury. She was replaced by Caitlin Foord at the 59 minute mark.
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An experienced Matildas spine including Lydia Williams, Aivi Luik, Steph Catley and Emily Van Egmond as well as the late additions of Emily Gielnik, Sam Kerr and Mary Fowler were enough to ensure the squad has nearly all played minutes in the tournament and been able to show their wares.
The feature of this experienced side before half time was Emily Van Egmond. The experienced midfielder worked well with the youth of the side, and before half-time provided a goal that saw her side go into the break 1-0. This marked the 29th Australian goal for Van Egmond.
She also took the captain’s armband in the second half before skipper Sam Kerr was injected into the game.
Being the only player to have played every minute in the Asian Cup before this game, she helped to hold the attack and defence together and provided her fifth goal of the tournament.
She was then subbed off late with Siemsen for Fowler and Kerr, to give her some rest and provide the spark that this forward duo always brings.
At half time the captain at the time Steph Catley was replaced by Kyah Simon, who was busy, delivering a ball to Kerr for the second goal at the 80th minute mark.
Gielnik was one of the others who provided spark off the bench. The forward provided experience and composure as well as a potential avenue to goal. Late in the game the corners were 14-2 in favour of the Australians, who controlled play and possession.
A late Thai goal from midfielder Nipawan Panyosuk spoiled the Matildas’ hunt for three clean sheets as they would have hoped. However, the pure depth from the side which saw nine individual goal scorers across the games has fans excited.
Overall, the decision for Gustavsson to include his more experienced heads towards the end of the match was an inspired choice, meaning all the squad currently available have all been tested.
It also brings about a build up in momentum for the team heading into a quarter-final match-up with South Korea. South Korea managed to eke out a draw against Japan and come into the next game in fine form.
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