Matildas secure first Asian Cup win

Striker Kate Gill is now the Matildas’ outright leading goal scorer after her double against Jordan led Australia to a 3-1 victory in their second group match of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2014 in Ho Chi Minh on Friday night.

In her 81st international appearance for the Matildas, the 29-year old surpassed Cheryl Salisbury on the all-time goal scoring list when she netted the first goal of the game, the 39th international goal of her career.

But there was more to come as Gill headed home her second six minutes into the second half to double the lead before influential substitute Katrina Gorry added a third to effectively see off the Jordanians and give the Matildas their first win of the tournament.

Gill was typically modest when asked about her historic feat but at the same time honoured to overtake Salisbury’s tally.

“It’s a fantastic feeling but I think it’s more important we got three points out of that game,” Gill said.

“It’s a great personal milestone, to go past Cheryl who is such a stalwart of our game and has been pretty much been the backbone for women’s football in Australia for quite some time, it’s quite an accomplishment and something I’m extremely proud of.”

Although the score line ended in Australia’s favour, the first meeting between the two countries was not without its share of drama. Jordan’s goal came from a speculative long range effort from Stephanie that the linesperson adjudged all clear but it was not without conjecture as Matildas goalkeeper Brianna Davey appeared to catch the ball inside the field of play without it crossing the goal line.

Then with ten minutes of regulation time remaining, two of the stadium’s floodlights went out, prompting a 10 minute delay before they could be lit up again.

Against a feisty and determined Jordan outfit, a Matildas team containing ten new faces from the draw with Japan two nights earlier struggled to find its rhythm as Jordan constantly parked large numbers in their own half and relied on hitting on the counter.

Much of the opening 45 minutes was played in Jordan’s half of the pitch but the Matildas were being frustrated as they attempted to try and force the issue, sometimes lacking the patience to draw their opponents out of position.

Samantha Kerr was dynamic on the right hand side and she tested Jordan keeper Zina with a couple of tantalising crosses aimed at Gill before birthday girl Teresa Polias tried her luck with a free kick that flew over the bar.

Jordan’s stubborn resistance eventually ended in the 36th minute when Kim Carroll’s inviting diagonal high ball was met by Gill who produced a trademark glancing header to finally break the deadlock.

On a rare foray forward, Luna nearly stung Australia on the counter early in the second half, curling her effort narrowly wide of the target.

Then it was Gill who bobbed up again to score hers, and the Matildas’ second, Leena Khamis releasing Kerr down the left, her measured cross finding Gill who timed her jump well to head the ball into the back of the net.

Interim Head Coach Alen Stajcic injected Caitlin Foord and Katrina Gorry into the fray to try and apply the blowtorch to Jordan. In the 66thminute Foord missed a guilt edged chance with the just the keeper to beat after some fine build up play, and she was alsmot made to rue it when the dangerous Shahnaz had the pace to beat the Australian defence on the counter but she could not put enough power on her shot to trouble Brianna Davey in goal.

Gorry’s introduction immediately lifted the tempo of the Matildas’ play and she made it 3-0 in the 67th minute when she found time outside the penalty area and fired a well-directed low straight shot past Zina.

Jordan had something to cheer about when Stephanie’s effort from distance was surprisingly awarded, before the issue with the lights going out in the 80th minute only delayed a late flurry from the Matildas as they tried to drive home their advantage.

With any luck they could have added another three or four, Gorry having a fierce attempt blocked before Kerr had three opportunities in the dying stages only to be denied by the post and then Zina who managed to tip a header over the bar.

In the end the Matildas’ would have to be content with a 3-1 result. Reflecting on the performance, Gill admitted Jordan had made it a tough task.

“It’s never easy going into a match like that. You can never underestimate them (Jordan) and you know they’re going to be in there for every tackle and work hard, and I guess we can get a bit complacent at times and it’s a challenge sometimes to rise for it mentally as well,” Gill said.

“To Jordan’s credit they worked hard and battled really well, I think we just let ourselves down with poor passing execution and ball speed, all of the things we did against Japan we didn’t really do.”

The other Group A match saw Japan go to the top of the group thanks to a 4-0 win over host nation Vietnam, the Matildas’ next opponents.

The Matildas will face Vietnam on Sunday 18 May 2014 (Kick-Off 10.15pm AEST). The top two teams from each group will progress to the semi finals and automatically qualify for next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, while both third placed countries will play-off for the final spot at Canada 2015.

Match Details
Jordan 1 (Stephanie 71’)
Australia 3 (Gill 36’/51’, Gorry 67’)
Crowd: 1,200 @ Thong Nhat Stadium, Ho Chi Minh