Matildas hold world champions in Asian opener

Caitlin Foord celebrates the opening goal. Photo: Getty Images

Thursday, May 15, 2014

WA’s Lisa De Vanna was on target as the Westfield Matildas threatened to upset World Cup holders Japan in their opening match of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in Ho Chi Minh City last night.

Caitlin Foord had given Australia the lead before former Perth Glory striker De Vanna doubled the advantage to put the Matildas on the cusp of an upset.

But Japan came storming back and after an unfortunate own goal by Clare Polkinghorne substitute Yuki Ogimi scored in the 84th minute to earn a 2-2 draw.

Interim head coach Alen Stajcic’s first competitive game started impressively as the Matildas, with an average starting line-up age of just 22, stormed out of the blocks. With only two minutes gone, De Vanna threatened to breakthrough but her shot hit a post.

It was an electrifying start and the Matildas came close again when De Vanna tried to tee up Katrina Gorry from 12m but the Japanese defence intervened.

Play was temporarily stopped in the 19th minute for treatment to Japanese goalkeeper Erina Yamane, who had collided with Michelle Heyman.

Like De Vanna, speedster Foord had looked threatening as the duo opened up Japan out wide on a number of occasions. The breakthrough came in the 23rd minute as Foord produced a first-class finish after first doing the hard work to beat two Japanese defenders.

Led by Polkinghorne, the Matildas were then forced to repel a dominant period from the Japanese, although keeper Lydia Williams was not seriously tested as Aya Miyawa flashed one just wide of a post in the 39th minute.

But soon after Williams was forced to ensure the Matildas went into the break with their lead intact as she produced a brilliant close-range save to keep out Ogimi when she seemed destined to score.

Japan hit the crossbar early in the second half and after a swift but unsuccessful counter attack from the Matildas, Williams produced another crucial block as Japan again beat the offside trap.

The Matildas survived another close call thanks to some desperate last-ditch defending and their resilience paid off when De Vanna capitalised on a well worked move. Heyman did superbly to hold up the ball for Emily van Egmond, whose partly blocked attempt fell invitingly out to the right for De Vanna. She celebrated becoming the fifth most-capped player for Australia’s Women’s Team as she expertly directed her shot past the keeper.

The goal created a sudden lift in urgency from Japan and seven minutes later they reduced the deficit when Polkinghorne attempted to diffuse a low purposeful cross from the left only to see it end up in her own net.

Then Ogimi capped off a fine game as she brought Japan level, latching onto a header that Williams could do nothing about.

There was one last chance for the Matildas to snatch all three points late on after excellent vision from Elise Kellond-Knight put Tameka Butt through but she was ruled to have been inches offside.

Stajcic’s post-match comments reflected the bittersweet nature of the performance and result.

“Before the game we probably would have taken a point but in the end we’re disappointed we didn’t come away with three points and had a foot in the World Cup,” he said.

“But the performance was good for the first 30 minutes and then we tailed off a bit at the end of the first half.

“In the second half I thought Japan dominated the game. They had more chances and kept better possession than we did and this is something we certainly have to improve on.”

“Our desperation defending was brilliant. It kept us in the game at times and our counter attacking looked really dangerous but at the end of the day I guess a draw was a fair result.”

In the other Group A match, hosts Vietnam defeated Jordan 3-1 to go to the top of the table. The top five teams in the Asian Cup qualify for next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The Matildas take on Jordan in their next group game on Friday at 6.15pm (WA time).

All Matildas AFC Women’s Asian Cup matches are live and exclusive on Fox Sports.
Match Details
Westfield Matildas 2 (Foord 21’, De Vanna 64’)
Japan 2 (Polkinghorne 71’ (og), Ogimi 84’)
Referee: Qin Liang (China)
Crowd: 2,000 @ Thong Nhat Stadium, Ho Chi Minh

Westfield Matildas starting line-up: 18.Lydia WILLIAMS (gk), 2.Teigen ALLEN, 4.Clare POLKINGHORNE (c), 8.Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, 9.Caitlin FOORD (20.Samantha KERR 74’), 10.Emily VAN EGMOND (13.Tameka BUTT 85’), 11.Lisa DE VANNA, 14.Alanna KENNEDY, 16.Stephanie CATLEY, 19.Katrina GORRY, 23.Michelle HEYMAN (12.Kate GILL 66’)
Substitutes not used: 3.Kim CARROLL, 5.Laura ALLEWAY, 6.Leena KHAMIS, 7.Hayley RASO, 15.Nicola BOLGER, 17.Teresa POLIAS, 21.Casey DUMONT (gk), 22.Ashleigh SYKES
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Nil

Japan starting line-up: 21.Erina YAMANE (gk), 2.Saori ARIYOSHI, 3.Azusa IWASHIMIZU, 6.Mizuho SAKAGUCHI, 8.Aya MIYAMA, 9.Nahomi KAWASUMI, 11.Chinatsu KIRA (17.Yuki OGIMI 34’), 12.Emi NAKAJIMA (14.Nanase KIRYU 67’), 13.Megumi TAKASE (25.Michi GOTO 79’), 19.Rumi UTSUGI, 20.Yuri KAWAMURA
Substitutes not used: 1.Miho FUKUMOTO (gk), 5.Megumi KAMIONOBE, 7.Karina MARUYAMA, 10.Homare SAWA, 15.Yuika SUGASAWA, 16.Hikaru NAOMOTO, 18.Ayumi KAIHORI (gk), 22.Ruka NORIMATSU, 23.Shiho KOHATA
Yellow cards: Kawamura 90+2’
Red cards: Nil