Matildas set up cup final showdown with Japan

The Matildas have set up an Asian Cup final showdown with World Champions Japan after defeating Korea Republic 2-1 on Thursday night at Ho Chi Minh’s Thong Nhat Stadium. 

All three goals came in the second-half. Katrina "Mini" Gorry opened the scoring for the Australians and Elise Kellond-Knight sealed the win with her first international goal after the Koreans equalised with a penalty by Park Eun-Sun.

The result keeps the Aussies on track to retain their AFC Women's Asian Cup crown.

The Matildas made a fast start, their intentions clear as Lisa De Vanna darted down the left and just failed to find Michelle Heyman in the box inside the first minute. Heyman then did well to send a ball in from the right across the goal face but there was no one in an Australian shirt on the end of it.

Without absent playmaker Ji So Yun, who had returned to her club side, Korea’s strategy was clear - defend deep when not in possession and then try and catch the Aussies on the counter.

In form goalkeeper Lydia Williams produced a brilliant point blank save from a Yoo Young-A effort in the 17th minute to keep the Matildas on level terms before De Vanna and fellow winger Caitlin Foord forced some desperate defending from the Korean defence with their pace and guile.

After going into the break nil-all both teams found the back of the net in controversial circumstances.

The Matildas broke the deadlock within 70 seconds of the restart when Gorry struck a 20-metre rocket into the top corner giving Korean goalkeeper Kim Jung Mi no chance.

It was three from three for the Kansas City midfielder and another contender for goal of the tournament. But teammate Foord was fortunate not to be pinged for a foul on her defender in the lead-up.

The Koreans, who until this match had yet to concede in the tournament, struck back on 53 minutes.

Heyman stuck out a leg and Kim Na-Rae made the most of it, taking a couple of steps before going down and earning a soft penalty which was duly converted. Heyman perhaps paying the price for some poor challenges in the first half.

There was no second-guessing the winner, however. The defining moment came after De Vanna, pinned up in the right attacking corner, did superbly to hold onto possession and draw a foul with three defenders around her.

From the ensuing set piece, Kellond-Knight’s tantalising left footed in-swinger managed, thanks largely to substitute Samantha Kerr’s near post run, to elude everyone including the goalkeeper and sneak inside the far post to put the Matildas back in front on 77 minutes.

Kerr produced a stunning finish off a superb counter attack from De Vanna in the 87th minute that would have well and truly decided the result but the referee assistant’s flag was raised for offside.

In the end it did mattered little as the Matildas held on for the four minutes of stoppage time to move into the decider - the sounds of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ being sung by the vocal Australian contingent in the crowd after the final whistle.

Interim coach Alen Stajcic was elated with all of his players.

“We’ve got so many good attacking players and we saw that tonight,” Stajcic said.

“We created nine or 10 really good chances. We only scored two but I thought we dominated the majority of the game.

“I thought we dominated the chances and I think we thoroughly deserved the win.

“We put them (Korea Republic) under so much pressure in midfield that we just didn’t let them play, and that’s how we’re going to play.

“If teams are going to beat us they’re going to have to beat us with good skill and they’re going to have to be able to play under pressure.

“I’m extremely proud of the group. They worked so hard, they were disciplined, they attacked well, they were positive the whole game, even after the penalty they just got on with it and didn’t sit back and wait at 1-1.

“We wanted to go out and win the game and I said that would be our philosophy, we’re going to go out and try to win games rather than sit back and try not to lose.”

The result means the Matildas will meet Japan in the final on Sunday night after the World Champions accounted for China 2-1 in the final minute of extra time earlier in the day.

It will be the second time Australia and Japan face off in the tournament after playing out an intriguing 2-2 draw in the opening match of the group stage.

The AFC Women’s Asian Cup Final will be live on Fox Sports.

Match Details

Korea Republic 1 (Park Eun Sun 53’ (pen))

Westfield Matildas 2 (Gorry 47’, Kellond-Knight 77’)

Referee: Rita Binti Gani (Malaysia)

Crowd: 700 @ Thong Nhat Stadium, Ho Chi Minh