The Matildas have begun their Tokyo campaign in style, and despite going goalless in the second half, have waltzed to a 2-1 win against New Zealand on Wednesday night at Ajinomoto Stadium. For all your Olympic coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.
The Aussie females rightly deserved their 2-0 lead into the break, holding possession over their Trans-Tasman rivals with confidence.
Two opportunities came by for the Matildas in the ninth minute. First from a pass to captain Sam Kerr, which didn’t have enough on it for the striker to find the opener.
Only moments later, a perfectly weighted ball in from Kyah Simon who had sights on Caitlin Foord was again short, as New Zealand’s CJ Bott came in with a late interception.
Simon remained most dangerous for the Matildas, who enjoyed her deeper role in the midfield.
The Matildas finally found the goal they deserved, and new mother, Tameka Yallop opened up the scoring 1-0 in the 20th minute.
Kerr put through the ball to Yallop, and showing confidence in her preferred role in the midfield, she moved up forward and found the top of the net.
Nerves evidently settled among the Australian side, with Yallop’s goal composing the Matildas. The Australians then began playing a more patient, yet skilled game.
There was more to be done by the Aussies, and none other than Kerr doubled her side’s lead 2-0 in the 33rd minute.
A corner by Steph Catley, who too was another lively Matilda, found the head of her captain whose header bounced off the crossbar and into the net.
New Zealand goalkeeper Erin Nayler did well in her attempts to stop the goal. She was able to get a hand on the ball but Kerr proved the stronger opponent.
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Again, the Matilda’s opened the second half with a number of chances. The one looking most promising coming through by Hayley Raso in the 54th minute.
New Zealand continued to struggle to keep up the pace of the Matildas, with even more difficulty converting in front of goal.
Catley once again with a corner, directed the ball well to find a teammate. This time she found Foord in the 59th minute.
Foord attempted a right-footed shot from the centre of the box, but it was saved well in the bottom right-hand corner.
New Zealand looked to half its deficit in the 65th minute, as Lydia Williams left the net to defend the ball. Carpenter was placed well in front of the net to deflect an incoming ball and allowed enough time for Williams to return in front of goal.
With time ticking away, New Zealand made a double sub in the 68th and 69th minutes, taking off Olivia Chance and Anna Green for Daisy Cleverley and Paige Satchell.
The Matildas shortly followed New Zealand, themselves making a double sub in the 75th. An exceptional performance by Simon came to an end, with 18-year-old Mary Fowler the replacement. Yallop too came off, with Kyra Cooney-Cross the substitute.
Opportunities for a third goal continued coming the Matildas way, however, they remained unsuccessful in front of the net.
Raso was the Matildas next to be substituted off, with Alanna Kennedy coming on to add a fresh set of legs in the final minutes of the match.
What seemed to be a quieter end to the match was changed when New Zealand’s Gabrielle Rennie scored one minute into injury time.
She had only been subbed on two minutes earlier but was the answer New Zealand needed to find themselves on the scoreboard.
Ria Percival headed the pass into Rennie’s direction, who then completed a header herself to find the bottom left of the net.
Even with the late goal conceded, the Matildas’ first-half efforts were enough to hold onto a 2-1 victory.
The Matildas will now come up against Sweden, this Saturday at 6.30pm at Saitama Stadium 2002.
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