The Westfield Matildas have opened their AFC Women’s Asian Cup title defence with an entertaining 2-2 draw against Japan at Thong Nhat Stadium on Wednesday night.
The Westfield Matildas have opened their AFC Women-s Asian Cup title defence with an entertaining 2-2 draw against Japan at Thong Nhat Stadium in Ho Chi Minh on Wednesday night.
It could have been a different story after the Australians took a 2-nil lead just after the hour mark through goals to Caitlin Foord and Lisa De Vanna, only for the World Champions to storm back courtesy of an unfortunate own goal to Clare Polkinghorne before first half substitute Yuki Ogimi levelled it up in the 84th minute to leave both teams with a point.
In Interim Head Coach Alen Stajcic-s first official game in charge and with an average age of 22 in their starting line-up, the Westfield Matildas stormed out of the blocks, De Vanna almost stunning Japan as she watched her well hit shot curl beyond the keeper but not the post inside two minutes.
It was an electrifying start and the Matildas came close again when De Vanna tried to tee up Katrina Gorry from 12 metres but the Japanese defence just managed to intervene in time.
Play was temporarily stopped in the 19th minute after Michelle Heyman clattered into Japanese goalkeeper Erina Yamane, the stop in play for treatment to Yamane allowing both sides a welcome chance to catch their breath after a frenetic opening in the humid conditions.
Like De Vanna, fellow speedster Foord had looked threatening as the duo opened Japan up out wide on a number of occasions and in the 23rd minute the breakthrough came as she produced a first class finish after first doing the hard work to beat two Japanese defenders, the ball finding the inside of the post on its way into the back of the net.
Led by Polkinghorne, the Matildas were then forced to repel a dominant period from the Japanese, keeper Lydia Williams not seriously tested as Aya Miyawa flashed one just wide of the post in the 39th minute.
But soon after Williams was forced to ensure the Matildas went into the break with their lead in tact as she produced a brilliant close range save to keep out Ogimi when she seemed destined to draw level.
Japan hit the crossbar early in the second half and after a swift but unsuccessful counter attack from the Matildas, Williams came up big again when needed, the 26 year old coming out bravely to make a crucial block as Japan again beat the offside trap.
The Matildas survived another close call thanks to some desperate last ditch defending and their resilience paid off when De Vanna capitalised on a well worked move, Heyman doing superbly to hold the ball up for Emily van Egmond, whose partly blocked attempt fell invitingly out to the right for De Vanna, who celebrated becoming the fifth most capped player for Australia-s Women-s Team as she expertly directed her shot past the keeper.
The goal created a sudden lift in urgency from Japan and seven minutes later they reduced the deficit when Polkinghorne attempted to diffuse a low purposeful cross from the left only to see it end up in her own net.
Then Ogimi capped off a fine game as she brought Japan level, latching onto a header that Williams could do nothing about.
There was one last chance for the Matildas to snatch all three points late on after excellent vision from Elise Kellond-Knight put Tameka Butt through, but she was ruled to have been inches offside.
“Before the game we probably would have taken a point but in the end we-re disappointed we didn-t come away with three points and had a foot in the World Cup,” Stajcic said.
“But the performance was good for the first 30 minutes and then we tailed off a bit at the end of the first half.
“In the second half I thought Japan dominated the game, they had more chances and kept better possession than we did and this is something we certainly have to improve on.”
“Our desperation defending was brilliant, it kept us in the game at times, and our counter attacking looked really dangerous but at the end of the day I guess a draw was a fair result.”
In the earlier Group A match, hosts Vietnam defeated Jordan 3-1 to go to the top of the table.
The Westfield Matildas have less than 48 hours before their second group match against Jordan on Friday 16 May 2014. Kick-Off is at 8.15pm AEST.
All of the Westfield Matildas- matches in the AFC Women-s Asian Cup are LIVE & exclusive on Fox Sports.
Match Details Westfield Matildas 2 (Foord 21-, De Vanna 64-) Japan 2 (Polkinghorne 71- (og), Ogimi 84-) Referee: Qin Liang (China) Crowd: 2,000 @ Thong Nhat Stadium, Ho Chi Minh
Westfield Matildas starting line-up: 18.Lydia WILLIAMS (gk), 2.Teigen ALLEN, 4.Clare POLKINGHORNE (c), 8.Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, 9.Caitlin FOORD (20.Samantha KERR 74-), 10.Emily VAN EGMOND (13.Tameka BUTT 85-), 11.Lisa DE VANNA, 14.Alanna KENNEDY, 16.Stephanie CATLEY, 19.Katrina GORRY, 23.Michelle HEYMAN (12.Kate GILL 66-) Substitutes not used: 3.Kim CARROLL, 5.Laura ALLEWAY, 6.Leena KHAMIS, 7.Hayley RASO, 15.Nicola BOLGER, 17.Teresa POLIAS, 21.Casey DUMONT (gk), 22.Ashleigh SYKES Yellow cards: Nil Red cards: Nil
Japan starting line-up: 21.Erina YAMANE (gk), 2.Saori ARIYOSHI, 3.Azusa IWASHIMIZU, 6.Mizuho SAKAGUCHI, 8.Aya MIYAMA, 9.Nahomi KAWASUMI, 11.Chinatsu KIRA (17.Yuki OGIMI 34-), 12.Emi NAKAJIMA (14.Nanase KIRYU 67-), 13.Megumi TAKASE (25.Michi GOTO 79-), 19.Rumi UTSUGI, 20.Yuri KAWAMURA Substitutes not used: 1.Miho FUKUMOTO (gk), 5.Megumi KAMIONOBE, 7.Karina MARUYAMA, 10.Homare SAWA, 15.Yuika SUGASAWA, 16.Hikaru NAOMOTO, 18.Ayumi KAIHORI (gk), 22.Ruka NORIMATSU, 23.Shiho KOHATA Yellow cards: Kawamura 90+2- Red cards: Nil