In their long overdue return to Perth, the Matildas defeated Iran to kick-start the second round of the Olympic Qualifiers.
In their first game since the World Cup, the Matildas were welcomed back to Australia by Iran in the first Game of their Olympic bid.
A sold-out crowd of 18,798 people filled HBF Park to witness the Matildas come to Perth for the first time since 2018.
The ladies did not disappoint as they used high-quality pressing and passing to outclass Iran and get the victory in front of their home fans with goals from Ellie Carpenter and Sam Kerr.
Prior to the game, Matildas Manager Tony Gustavsson revealed that Chelsea superstar Sam Kerr would not feature in all 90 minutes of play due to a pre-existing calf injury dating back to the World Cup.
Kerr along with other WSL players Mary Fowler, Caitlin Ford and Mackenzie Arnold all took the bench to start the game.
After barely missing out on the World Cup squad, Kristianstads DFF midfielder Amy Sayer started the game as a forward.
More Football News
The Matildas started the game quickly, by using long balls and fast build-up play to move the ball around the Iranians. Cortnee Vine caused problems early on the right flank as she created the first chance of the game by running in behind the defense and putting in a cross that was headed wide.
In the 18th minute, Vine crossed the ball into the box once again, the ball fell to Charlotte Grant who assisted Ellie Carpenter to give the home team the lead.
The Iranians tried to play a defensive low-block and counter when they had the chance, but the Matildas pressed with intensity whenever they didn’t have the ball and gave the away team barely any room to breathe.
The Aussies were presented another opportunity in the 30th minute after Alex Chidiac put Carpenter through on goal, but the defender missed the target.
The high pass statistic was mainly attributed to the home team’s stranglehold of the midfield battle, as the starting striker Emily van Egmond dropped deeper to overload the central area.
The first half ended 1-0 in favor of the Aussies, who dominated their opposition with six shots along with 82% possession and 392 passes.
After the Iranians kicked off the second half, the Matildas won the ball back almost instantly. The Aussies would continue to have their chances, as Clare Wheeler dribbled through the Iranian opposition and tried to cut it back, but the ball deflected out of play.
When the hometown hero Sam Kerr warmed up, the Perth crowd roared in excitement and in the 64th minute, she finally came on along with Mary Fowler and Steph Catley.
In one of her first touches of the ball, Kerr headed the ball to put Vine through on goal. Despite rounding the goalkeeper, the angle proved to be too tight as Vine wasn’t able to get the shot off on time. Kerr then had her first chance of the game but she would just miss the target from a corner kick.
In the 78th minute of the game all three substitutes linked up for the second goal. After Fowler took the ball on the left wing, she passed the ball through to Catley who cut it back to Kerr for the long overdue second goal of the game.
Fowler would make chances of her own, as she put through Sayer for a chance on goal before hitting the ball at the goalkeeper.
Deep into added time the Matildas continued to press, although Iran would have a few runs on goal, they weren’t able to have a clear chance on goal.
The game ended 2-0 in favor of the home side as the fans cheered in happiness. Goal scorer Ellie Carpenter was named player of the match.
Tony Gustavsson Post Game Presser
In the post-match presser, Manager Tony Gustavsson stated that the preparation was challenging.
“This might have been one of the most challenging preparations I’ve had with this team,” Gustavsson revealed.
“Very little prep time, a lot of jet lag, different issues with players with playing time and all sorts.
“For us to be able to with one training session and meeting to challenge the players with improvement areas and they take that on with bravery, that makes me really excited.”
Although the team played well, Gustavsson thought that the team was rusty, in comparison to their World Cup run.
“Our efficiency with our pressing and regaining the ball was really good, but we didn’t regain that ball enough.
“I think we showed in the World Cup that we were second in the world at getting in behind, but in terms of getting in behind the backline, we weren’t good.
“We want to win but we want to win getting one day better, so let’s be brave on the ball and combine a lot more than we did in the World Cup. I think the players were great today but we were a bit rusty, this could have been a game where we scored five or six goals considering what we created.”
In terms of individual performances, the Matildas coach had a lot of praise for his players.
“Individually I want to say that Clare Wheeler was outstanding tonight, as a coach you can give players a chance in a friendly that’s one thing but you also need the bravery to play them when the game means something.
“This was a really important qualifier… Clare Wheeler was outstanding tonight.
“Amy Sayer especially in the second half showed a lot of things that we have seen in Sweden and in training… and Ellie [Carpenter] was outstanding as an inverted outside back.
“We looked at pictures from the World Cup to see how much more we can get out of Ellie, her timing and her runs in behind was good instead of being stuck on the sidelines was good.
“With a little more training on the timing on that, i think we can get more out of that.
“I credit City for this but they used Mary as an wide forward and she has been outstanding in the league, so we wanted to try that in our system and she has been mind-blowingly good.”
The Matildas look to continue their winning ways as they face the Philippines in game two who topped the group after defeating Chinese Taipei four goals to one in the first match of the double-header.
You can watch the Matildas’ Olympic Qualifiers on Paramount+ or Channel 10