The Westfield Matildas’ hopes of claiming back-to-back continental titles were ended last night when Japan scored a 1-0 win in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup final in Vietnam.
Courtesy Football Federation Australia
The deciding goal came in the first half after the Australians were caught napping from a corner, which allowed Azusa Iwashimizu to scramble home the eventual winner to give the World Cup Champions their first Asian Cup trophy.
Despite the Matildas’ never-say-die attitude, a tiring Japan were able to hold on to leave Australia taking home runner-up medals from the tournament.
Matildas Interim Head Coach Alen Stajcic said: “The first thing I want to do is congratulate Japan. They’re a fantastic team and they again showed why they’re in the top two or three in the world.
“I’m extremely proud of our team. I thought that we fought right to the end, we had lots of chances in the first 15 minutes and then throughout the second half I thought we were a threat.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t get the goal but I’m proud of how much the team has improved in the tournament and hopefully by the time we reach the World Cup next year we can improve that little bit more in our execution and beat those big countries.”
The Matildas were on top early at Thong Nhat stadium with Sam Kerr almost scoring in the opening minute. A brilliant through ball from Lisa De Vanna inside the first 60 seconds gave Kerr a glimpse of goal but she was unable to find the target.
She nearly took advantage again minutes later as the Japanese defence was caught out but she was not able to connect before Michelle Heyman sent a header straight at Japanese keeper Miho Fukumoto.
Japan slowly worked their way back into the contest and their dominant period eventually saw them hit the front on 28 minutes.
A clever variation from a corner saw the ball played to the edge of the box before a deep curling cross to the far post caused confusion in defence, Iwashimizu directing her header between a clutch of defenders and keeper Lydia Williams onto the post before it rolled over the line.
The goal shook up the Matildas as Japan went in search of another with the likes of Kawasumi and Miyama causing headaches.
Heyman sought to shake things up with a hefty shoulder challenge on Sawa before De Vanna found Heyman superbly only to see Fukumoto intercept in time.
The Matildas came out after half time with greater urgency and purpose and continued to ask questions of the Japanese defence.
Kerr combined with Heyman but her powerful strike from outside the box went straight into the arms of the keeper, which was followed minutes later with another great chance just sailing wide of the post after a probing ball from Emily van Egmond.
Stajcic introduced Tameka Butt and Caitlin Foord as the Matildas’ need for an equaliser intensified but it was Japan that next came close as Sugasawa hit the bar.
However the Matildas were not done with and almost drew level within a minute, Katrina Gorry setting up Kerr with a perfect cross into the box but her volleyed goal was deemed offside.
The fresher Australians pressed in the latter stages with Kerr going close but the Japanese held on for a historic win.
Japan 1 (Iwashimizu 28’)
Westfield Matildas 0
Referee: Qin Liang (China)
Crowd: 10,000 @ Thong Nhat Stadium, Ho Chi Minh
Japan: 1.Miho FUKUMOTO (gk), 2.Saori ARIYOSHI, 3.Azusa IWASHIMIZU, 6.Mizuho SAKAGUCHI, 8.Aya MIYAMA, 9.Nahomi KAWASUMI, 10.Homare SAWA (15.Yuika SUGASAWA 65’), 12.Emi NAKAJIMA (25.Michi GOTO 75’), 13.Megumi TAKASE (11.Chinatsu KIRA 83’), 19.Rumi UTSUGI, 20.Yuri KAWAMURA
Substitutes not used: 4.Yuria OBARA, 5.Megumi KAMIONOBE, 7.Karina MARUYAMA, 14.Nanase KIRYU, 16.Hikaru NAOMOTO, 18.Ayumi KAIHORI (gk), 21.Erina YAMANE (gk), 22.Ruka NORIMATSU, 23.Shiho KOHATA
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Nil
Westfield Matildas: 18.Lydia WILLIAMS (gk), 2.Teigen ALLEN, 4.Clare POLKINGHORNE (c), 8.Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, 10.Emily VAN EGMOND (13.Tameka BUTT 60’), 11.Lisa DE VANNA, 14.Alanna KENNEDY (5.Laura ALLEWAY 46’), 16.Stephanie CATLEY, 19.Katrina GORRY, 20.Samantha KERR, 23.Michelle HEYMAN (9.Caitlin FOORD 67’)
Substitutes not used: 1.Brianna DAVEY (gk), 3.Kim CARROLL, 6.Leena KHAMIS, 7.Hayley RASO, 12.Kate GILL, 15.Nicola BOLGER, 17.Teresa POLIAS, 21.Casey DUMONT (gk), 22.Ashleigh SYKES
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Nil