WATCH: CommBank Matildas defeat African Champions 4-1 at Kingsmeadow

The CommBank Matildas were simply too good for African Champions South Africa at Kingsmeadow in London. A brace to Cortnee Vine and goals to Clare Polkinghorne and Caitlin Foord led them to a 4-1 win.

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While the CommBank Matildas went into the game as favourites, there were a number of question marks surrounding the match. Injuries had already decimated the options at head coach Tony Gustavsson’s disposal prior to the international break. An ankle injury to first-choice goalkeeper Lydia Williams added to his woes, with Williams being sent back to her club Paris Saint-Germain for assessment.

Compounding these issues was captain Sam Kerr coming down with an illness earlier in the week, relegating her to the bench to start the match.

For South Africa’s part, there were six changes to the team that defeated Morocco in the African Cup of Nations final in July, with coach Desiree Ellis trusting many fringe players with opportunities against Australia. 

It didn’t take long for the CommBank Matildas to banish any concerns about scoring without their talismanic centre forward. It was Cortnee Vine who stepped up into Kerr’s role, and the goalscoring magic of the position had clearly rubbed off on her. Within five minutes of kickoff, she found herself in the right place at the right time to tap in her first international goal on the rebound after Mary Fowler rose well to meet a Steph Catley corner.

Midway through the second half, she doubled her goalscoring tally. A wonderful chip from Catley found the feet of Caitlin Foord. Vine managed to backheel the ball into the back of the net with her trailing leg via a deflection, although replays seemed to show that it was her goal to claim.

The CommBank Matildas played a slightly different style than in the previous international window against Canada. While lining up in the expected 4-3-3 formation, in possession the wing-backs were given much more license to go forward, leaving Kyra Cooney-Cross and Katrina Gorry in midfield to sit deep and cover. Cooney-Cross, in particular, was often seen covering Catley’s left back role defensively. This license allowed Catley to have a particularly influential game, both from set pieces and from open play.

This system – in any game of risk and reward – meant that despite 65% possession in the first half, the CommBank Matildas were occasionally vulnerable in transition. South Africa looked promising on occasion but were not able to convert those into clear cut chances. They had perhaps their best chance of the first half in the 23rd minute when Clare Polkinghorne was caught in possession but could not find a shot at the end of it.

Vine had opportunities to complete her hattrick in the first half but it was instead Clare Polkinghorne who extended the scoring for the Australians. Steph Catley was once again involved, this time with a direct assist from the corner. Polkinghorne rose like a salmon, and her powerful header past Banyana Banyana goalkeeper Regirl Ngobeni gave the CommBank Matildas a 3-0 lead.

The Australians dominated the half time statistics and showed no signs of slowing down for the second half. Caitlin Foord in particular looked extremely lively. She was rewarded for her endeavour with the first goal of the second half. She was able to find some space in the South African penalty area after a fantastic run down the left-hand side and neatly finished into the back post for her 23rd goal in the green and gold.

South Africa did force Australian goalkeeper Teagan Micah to smartly come off of her line to smother an opportunity midway through the second half, but they were again unable to get a shot away on that occasion.

With the result secured, coach Tony Gustavsson took the opportunity to rotate his playing squad. Alex Chidiac replaced Cortnee Vine in the 58th minute while Emily Gielnik, Larissa Crummer and Courtney Nevin got their opportunities twelve minutes later.

Heartwarmingly, with less than ten minutes to go, fans of the CommBank Matildas got to see Chloe Logarzo in action for the first time since her ACL injury in a friendly against Ireland in September 2021. The new Western United signing looked sharp as she completed the next step in her recovery from that injury.

Sam Kerr was subbed on during the same stoppage to play at the home ground of her club Chelsea, but it is fair to say that this was one of the rare occasions where Kerr’s introduction was overshadowed by that of her teammate.

It was perhaps these changes that caused a late lapse in concentration for the Australians. South Africa’s Hildah Magaia was able to take advantage, latching onto a ball over the top and executing a smart lob over the onrushing Teagan Micah. It was just reward for the South African fans in London, who brightened the atmosphere with their singing throughout the match. However, it was a moment of concern for the CommBank Matildas, who would have much preferred to see out the game with a clean sheet.

Nonetheless, there were many positives. Cortnee Vine scored her first international goals, Chloe Logarzo returned to the pitch, and it is more minutes in the legs of the squad in the lead up to the Women’s World Cup next year.

The CommBank Matildas are back in the winner’s circle once more, and will be looking to carry this momentum into their next game against Denmark on Wednesday, October 12.

Denmark v CommBank Matildas
 Tues, 11 October 2022 (local) / Wed, 12 October (AEDT)
Location: Viborg Stadium, Viborg, Denmark
Kick-Off: 6.00pm (local) / 3.00am (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+

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This article was originally published on the CommBank Matildas website.