A solitary goal from Michelle Heyman was enough to earn the Westfield Matildas a narrow 1-0 victory over the Football Ferns.
A solitary goal from Michelle Heyman was enough to earn the Westfield Matildas a narrow 1-0 victory over the Football Ferns in atrocious conditions at the AIS Track in Canberra.
Heyman struck just before the break to score the crucial goal and give new Westfield Matildas Head Coach Hesterine de Reus a victory in her first match.
The Football Ferns started the brighter of the two teams, stretching the Westfield Matildas defence with a procession of raking cross field balls and looking to get their wingers in behind the home rear guard. The tactic met with limited success but, on one occasion, midfielder Amber Hearn arrived to volley towards goal only for the Westfield Matilda-s goalkeeper Brianna Davey to make a sprawling save as the visitors dominated the first ten minutes.
It took the Westfield Matildas a quarter of an hour to settle but, when they did, they too enjoyed spreading the game with Elise Kellond-Knight and Stephanie Catley finding space out wide only to provide a disappointing end product. But with Clare Polkinghorne pulling the strings from deep the hosts were beginning to threaten.
Even so it was New Zealand that had the best chance of the opening quarter after a slip from Alanna Kennedy allowed Sarah Gregorius a free run on goal. The striker kept her head to dance around Davey only for the Melbourne Victory custodian to scramble back and save the resultant shot, pushing the ball round the post for a corner.
New Zealand was to rue that miss as the Westfield Matildas took the lead four minutes before the interval. A through ball seemed to be over hit, but Heyman showed her poachers instinct by turning the half-chance into a goal. The Canberra United star crunched into a fifty-fifty challenge with Kiwi stopper Jenny Bindon on the edge of the penalty area and emerged with the ball, stroking it gleefully into the empty net to break the deadlock and give the Westfield Matildas a narrow half-time lead.
With almost constant drizzle during the second half the playing surface became slick and slippery which made for a fast-paced match as the ball fizzed off the turf in the testing conditions. With the rain falling, the match became a midfield battle in which Westfield Matildas- Emily Van Egmond stood out with her lung-bursting, tireless running.
Both teams made a number of substitutions as the game wore on and chances were at a premium and, as a result, de Reus sent on Samantha Kerr and Emily Gielnik to bolster her front line. New Zealand-s defence stood solid though with Captain Abby Erceg and fellow centre-back Anna Green a redoubtable last line of defence.
The best chance fell to Kerr with thirteen minutes remaining but, having shown her acceleration to skip away from her marker, the Sydney FC forward dragged her shot across the face of goal when well-placed. Shortly afterwards Katrina Gorry drew a smart low save from Bindon as the Westfield Matildas threatened a second.
New Zealand came close to an equaliser late on but Polkinghorne blocked a half-shot on the turn and the home team held on for the win.
Westfield Matildas 1 (Michelle Heyman 41-) Football Ferns 0 AIS Athletics Track, Bruce, ACT