source : thewest.com.au
For a while, it looked like the Matildas might not get the perfect ending to their time in Perth.
But good things come to those who wait, and a patient Australian side were rewarded when they struck three times in the second half to beat Chinese Taipei 3-0 at HBF Park.
The Matildas looked to pick up where they left off against the Philippines, but Chinese Taipei’s desperate defense and disciplined structure behind the ball negated their dominant possession and slowly killed the atmosphere around the ground.
However, a thunderous strike from Mary Fowler, who completed an excellent all-round performance, brought the crowd to life before a simple tap-in from Sam Kerr and a close-range finish by substitute Tameka Yallop completed the win.
The victory may not have been pretty, but in the end Chinese Taipei cracked under the pressure and the statistical dominance of the Australians: more than 75 percent possession, 36 shots to two and twelve corners short.
It ends the Matildas’ time in Perth, when 19,084 fans said goodbye to the Australians, with the win ensuring they would finish top of their AFC Olympic qualifying group with three wins, plenty of goals and hearts and minds racing even further conquered.
After the defeat to the Philippines, a sense of anticipation loomed over the Matildas and they started well, with Katrina Gorry seeing an effort saved, before Clare Hunt and Alanna Kennedy both headed beyond the target from corners within the first twelve minutes.
The pressure mounted for the visitors when Fowler rattled the woodwork shortly afterwards with a vicious shot that bounced down but not over the line.
A rendition of ‘I Am Australian’ drifted through the stadium, but the mood began to deteriorate slightly as the excitement died down, Chinese Taipei’s deep defensive line enveloped the space and the Matildas were unable to force their way through their opponents.
Fowler and Kyra Cooney-Cross both shot over the bar before Foord’s curling effort was stopped by goalkeeper Cheng Ssu-yu, and after half an hour Foord and Fowler came together to pick out Hayley Raso who deflected her shot straight at the crossbar . custodian.
Kerr’s hanging leap and close-range header, which flew over the bar late on, summed up the opening stanza well; Australia gets the ball in the penalty area, but cannot find the net.
By half-time, any discomfort in the crowd had turned to frustration and the Matildas’ movement had become static at times.
Charli Grant and Lydia Williams were introduced at the break for Clare Wheeler and goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold as the Matildas started the second half with energy. Kerr should have scored when she latched onto Cooney-Cross’ high pass but her feet went haywire.
Chinese Taipei dug in, despite Gorry grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck and Foord beating her marker on the touchline.
Cheng was back on par with her effort, while the fear in the stadium was palpable as the clock ticked past 60 minutes.
And then, in the 62nd minute, Fowler let fly.
Hunt sent a long diagonal pass down the left, the Manchester City star casually trapping it, cutting in from the wing and aiming for her goal before unleashing a thunderbolt into the top corner; in the end, Cheng was defeated.
The dam was finally breached six minutes later, when Foord once again dragged her marker to the sideline and her low cross was deflected off goal back into Kerr’s path with an open goal at her mercy – Matildas’ 900th international goal.
After struggling to find the net for over an hour, Australia suddenly had a two-goal lead, and a third seemed inevitable; Gorry, who had noticeably increased the pace, seized possession and fired a shot towards the top corner, before Cheng made a brilliant save.
Seventy-six minutes later came the third when Foord’s blocked shot rebounded off her and she found herself squarely in front of substitute Amy Sayer and squarely in front of fellow substitute Yallop.
There were late standout moments from Cooney-Cross, Grant, Foord and Sayer, before Fowler went close to a second with a blistering strike, but there would be no fourth for the Matildas.
The win secured Australia a place at the top of the standings with a perfect nine points, securing a two-match play-off against another Asian team in February.
source : thewest.com.au