The Westfield Matildas pushed USA to their absolute limits but fell to a desperately unlucky 3-1 defeat in their World Cup Group D opener in Winnipeg.
Despite dominating the first half the Matildas fell behind to Megan Rapinoe’s deflected early goal before Lisa De Vanna capped her 100th international cap with a brilliant equaliser.
The world’s second-ranked side then showed their class after the break and made the most of their opportunities, with Christen Press’ strike and a second goal for Rapinoe icing the result.
It’s now 25 games without a win over the USA for the Matildas but this was a performance that showed they aren’t far away from breaking through.
The Aussies out-played the tournament-favourites for long periods – especially in the first half - only faltering as they tired later in the match.
But there were brilliant performers all over the park and they should be confident of getting results against both Sweden and Nigeria in their next two games to progress to the quarter-finals.
It was an explosive start from the Matildas who took the game the USA right from the kick-off.
Only an outstanding save from Hope Solo denied the Aussies an early lead as she tipped Emily van Egmond’s powerful drive onto the crossbar.
The Matildas were thrilling going forward and well-organised at the back as they dominated a shell-shocked USA.
But a cruel piece of luck for Alen Stajcic’s side saw the two-time World Cup-winners take the lead on 12 minutes.
Ex-Sydney FC attacker Rapinoe won the ball just outside the box and shot towards goal, her effort taking a wicked deflection off Laura Alleway and nestling in the bottom corner, giving Melissa Barbieri no chance.
Not rattled by going behind, the Matildas continued to press forward, with Kerr’s stunning volley drawing another fine save from Solo just a minute later before De Vanna blazed high and wide after being teed-up by van Egmond.
But the co-captain’s next contribution would be more telling.
Sam Kerr and Alleway combined to find Michelle Heyman in the box and she touched the ball into the path of De Vanna, who fired it home for a well-deserved equaliser.
It was the livewire 30-year-old’s fifth World Cup goal and she equaled Socceroos superstar Tim Cahill’s record of scoring at three consecutive World Cups.
The goal was no more than the Aussies deserved and ensured they had the momentum heading into the second half.
The Matildas were forced to absorb a bit more pressure after the break with US defender Julie Johnston going close early on with a header which went straight at Barbieri.
The pace of De Vanna and Kerr was still causing America problems on the counter-attack but out of almost nothing the Matildas fell behind again on the hour.
Sydney Leroux broke down the left and cut the ball back for Press who placed the ball brilliantly in the far corner.
Kyah Simon came on for Kerr with 20 minutes left as the Matildas looked to exploit her pace in behind the central defenders.
Van Egmond tested Solo again with a long-range effort soon after as the Matildas upped the intensity in their search of another equalizer.
But Rapinoe scored a superb solo goal 12 minutes from time taking advantage of some tired defence to finish off the brave Matildas.
Australia 1 (De Vanna 27’)
USA 3 (Rapinoe 12’, 78’, Press 61’)
Crowd: 31,148 @ Winnipeg Stadium, Winnipeg
Westfield Matildas starting line-up: 18.Melissa BARBIERI (gk), 5.Laura ALLEWAY (3.Ashleigh SYKES 83’), 6.Servet UZUNLAR, 7.Steph CATLEY, 8.Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, 9.Caitlin FOORD, 10.Emily van EGMOND, 11.Lisa DE VANNA (c), 19.Katrina GORRY (14.Alanna KENNEDY 80’), 20.Samantha KERR, 23.Michelle HEYMAN (17.Kyah SIMON 69’)
USA starting line-up: 1.Hope SOLO (gk), 2.Sydney LEROUX (13.Alex MORGAN 79’), 4.Becky SAUERBRUNN, 10.Carli LLOYD, 11.Ali KRIEGER, 12.Lauren HOLIDAY, 15.Megan RAPINOE (14.Morgan BRIAN 86’), 19.Julie JOHNSTON, 20.Abby WAMBACH (c), 22.Meghan KLINGENBERG, 23.Christen PRESS (17.Tobin HEATH 68’)