The Matildas have continued their winning run at the Olympic qualifying tournament and moved closer to a coveted spot in Rio after accounting for Korea Republic 2-0 on Friday night in Osaka.
Both goals in the gritty victory came in an opening 15 minute burst with Kyah Simon taking on where she left off after her hat-trick against Vietnam as she broke the deadlock in the first 60 seconds before Emily van Egmond converted a penalty in her 50th appearance after Lisa De Vanna was brought down in the box.
The inspirational De Vanna was also the main instigator in Simon’s goal, her run and eventual shot coming off the post to provide the always alert Simon with the opportunity on the follow up.
The win takes the Westfield Matildas to a maximum nine points after three games, two points ahead of China who defeated hosts Japan to firm up their position in the standings and set up an intriguing last two match days of the tournament.
DPR Korea’s last gasp 1-0 win over Vietnam in the other match means the Westfield Matildas are still not guaranteed a prized top two finish but Head Coach Alen Stajcic knows they could not have put themselves in a better spot with matches to come against China and DPR Korea, the two countries looming as the other two leading contenders.
“We’re in a good position now with three good wins and the players worked really hard for that victory,” Stajcic said.
“I thought it was a really tough game and it could have gone either way. Korea Republic gave us a very good run and they certainly dominated large parts of the game and were maybe unlucky at times but we looked good on the counter attack and we were dangerous when we could get forward and in behind.”
“But full credit to Korea Republic because I thought they were a really good opponent tonight.”
The Westfield Matildas were forced to dig deep against a Korea Republic that asked some serious questions throughout the 90 minutes but they held firm and Stajcic said the ability to still come out in front was testament to the squad’s progress.
“I think it’s a sign that this team is maturing now, they’ve hit a period where there is some real growth on and off the field in the group,” said Stajcic.
“To be able to battle out a game like that and probably not be at your best but still dominate patches and be effective shows how far we’ve come and certainly that will hold us in good stead when we are faced with tough battles like that.”
Knowing the importance of the result, the Westfield Matildas could not have asked for a better start as they struck inside a minute. De Vanna was released by a neat through ball and found herself with just the keeper to beat, her shot from the angle rolling off the far post and Simon was quickest to react as she pounced and smashed the ball into the back of the net.
De Vanna was then a key figure as the Westfield Matildas extended their lead when she won the foot race with her marker and was felled in the penalty area. Van Egmond stepped up and accurately slotted home the spot kick to give the Westfield a two goal advantage with less than 15 minutes gone.
Korea Republic were lively as they attempted to get themselves back into the game but their momentum was halted on the half hour due to a short delay after captain Cho So Hyun felt the full brunt of a thunderous Elise Kellond-Knight effort from long range.
De Vanna was prevented from adding a goal of her own by the sharp reflexes of Korea Republic goalkeeper Kim Jung Mi in the 38th minute as the Westfield Matildas absorbed everything Korea Republic threw at them to hold onto their two goal buffer.
On the hour Steph Catley slid a delightful ball in for substitute Caitlin Foord, the dashing winger producing a clinical finish but the flag was up for offside before Clare Polkinghorne hit a shot just wide of the post in a dominant little period just after the hour mark.
With time running out Korea Republic started to get desperate and would have pegged a goal back in the 80th minute if not for a quality reflex save from Lydia Williams as she tipped over a stinging shot.
Foord had a couple of opportunities to kill the game off in the closing stages but Kim Jung Mi denied her both times, the final whistle signalling another invaluable three points.
The Westfield Matildas now get a two day break before their next match against DPR Korea on Monday (7 March 2016) at Yanmar Stadium (kick-off 7.35pm local, 9.35pm AEDT).
A top two finish in the group will see the Westfield Matildas qualify for August’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The Westfield Matildas Olympic Games Qualifiers will be showcased LIVE on 7mate.
Korea Republic 0
Westfield Matildas 2 (Simon 1’, van Egmond 14’ (pen))
Crowd: 1,124 @ Yanmar Stadium Nagai, Osaka
Referee: Lucila Venegas (Mexico)
Westfield Matildas starting line-up: 1.Lydia WILLIAMS (gk), 4.Clare POLKINGHORNE, 5.Laura ALLEWAY, 6.Chloe LOGARZO, 7.Steph CATLEY, 8.Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, 10.Emily VAN EGMOND (16.Michelle HEYMAN 74’), 11.Lisa DE VANNA (c) (9.Caitlin FOORD 56’), 14.Alanna KENNEDY, 17.Kyah SIMON (2.Ashleigh SYKES 86’), 19.Katrina GORRY
Substitutes not used: 3.Caitlin COOPER, 12.Casey DUMONT (gk), 13.Tameka BUTT, 15.Emily GIELNIK, 18.Mackenzie ARNOLD (gk), 20.Ellie CARPENTER
Yellow cards: Simon 40’
Red cards: Nil
Korea Republic starting line-up: 18.Kim Jung Mi (gk), 5.Kim Do Yeon, 6.Hwang Boram, 7.Jeon Ga Eul (12.Yoo Young A 75’), 8.Cho So Hyun (c), 10.Ji So Yun, 11.Jung Sul Bin, 13.Jang Selgi, 16.Lee Sodam (14.Lee Min A 46’), 17.Kim Soo Yun, 20.Kim Hye Ri (9.Lee Geummin 46’)
Substitutes not used: 1.Yoon Young Geul (gk), 2.Seo Hyunsook, 3.Lim Seon Joo, 4.Shin Damyeong, 15.Lee Youngju, 19.Kang Gaae (gk)
Yellow cards: Kim Hye Ri 14’, Jang Selgi 72’
Red cards: Nilcomments