It was a tale of two halves in Sydney as the CommBank Matildas fell 2-1 to the resurgent Olympic champions Canada in front of nearly 27,000 fans at the new Allianz Stadium.
Coach Tony Gustavsson set out a clear goal prior to these friendlies that he wanted to see a “solid performance over 90 minutes,” but unfortunately for his side, they were unable to keep up the intensity of a very impressive first half into the second.
The Australians came out of the blocks with noticeably higher levels of intensity than the game in Brisbane. The new look front three of Caitlin Foord, Sam Kerr and Cortnee Vine made it very difficult for Canada to play out of their own half.
This approach paid dividends almost immediately. In the third minute, Mary Fowler won the ball in midfield from a Kailen Sheridan goal kick. Sam Kerr made a perfectly weighted cut-back into the penalty area after a one-two with Cortnee Vine and Fowler arrived at the perfect time to place the ball into the back of the net.
Scoring early is one way to settle the nerves and the CommBank Matildas did not let up after the goal. Fowler was particularly impressive. Her through ball in the 17th minute released Sam Kerr, but she was thwarted by 19-year-old Jade Rose.
Kerr tried again midway through the first half from outside of the penalty area but was unable to get the required power or direction to trouble Sheridan.
Caitlin Foord had a lot of joy running at the Canadian defence. The parochial Australian crowd was unhappy when one such run into the box resulted in her falling to the ground but her plea for a penalty was waved away by referee Park Seijin.
The best opportunity for the CommBank Matildas to double their lead came from another superb Mary Fowler through ball. She found the feet of Cortnee Vine but a moment of indecision meant that the chance was squandered.
Kerr would have had another opportunity if not for Jade Rose’s covering run.
Canadian coach Bev Priestman clearly had the correct words for her team at half time, as Canada came out of the sheds with renewed purpose. The Australians were caught on the back foot and Canada capitalised immediately, scoring after their first shot of the game.
The veteran Christine Sinclair was able to find a way to cross the ball into the penalty area after her initial shot was blocked. Adriana Leon, the sole goal scorer in Brisbane, was in the right place to level the score.
Canada continued to press hard. In an almost complete reverse of the first half, Australia found it increasingly difficult to play through Canada’s midfield and onto the feet of their attacking players. Sam Kerr’s Chelsea teammate Jessie Fleming was particularly impressive in the Canadian midfield. Janine Beckie, a half time substitute for Canada, had a similar impact on the visitors.
The pressure from the players in red had to tell and once again it was the new Manchester United signing Leon who was in the right place. Jade Rose, who was so imperious in defence, played her part by assisting the goal with a magnificent through ball to Leon. Leon confidently slotted it past Williams to give Canada the lead.
Once going behind it was always going to be difficult for Australia to break down Canada’s well organised defence. However, with the crowd and their never say die spirit behind them, the women in green and gold never stopped pushing.
The CommBank Matildas had their best opportunity through substitute Alex Chidiac. After intercepting the ball in midfield, a one-two with Sam Kerr gave her a sight on a goal from the edge of the penalty area. However, she was ultimately denied by a fantastic block from Quinn, who injured themselves in the process.
Gorry won a late free kick but Canada stood tall in defence. One last cross from Kyra Cooney-Cross found its way onto her captain Kerr’s head, but it was not enough for the Australians to equalise.
The CommBank Matildas will play again on home soil in November when they take on Sweden.
CommBank Matildas v Sweden
Date: Saturday, 12 November 2022
Venue: AAMI Park
Kick-Off: 2:45 pm AEDT
Tickets are available now