Westfield Matildas reach AFC Women's Asian Cup final with heart-stopping shootout win over Thailand
Mackenzie Arnold saved three Thailand penalties in a nerve-jangling 3-1 shootout success as the Westfield Matildas advanced to the AFC Women’s Asian Cup final after a dramatic 2-2 draw in normal time.
Australia had been on the brink of a shock exit before Alanna Kennedy buried an equalising header in the 91st minute of a rollercoaster semi-final.
Thailand then survived extra-time despite Wilaiporn Boothduang’s earlier red card, but Arnold came to the fore in the resulting shootout as the favourites averted what would have been a big upset.
Arnold had endured a difficult evening up until the spot-kicks, having played an unfortunate part in the two Thailand goals that overturned the Westfield Matildas’ 17th-minute lead, which came courtesy of an own goal.
Alen Stajcic’s side refused to be beaten, though, and will now contest a third successive AFC Women’s Asian Cup final against either Japan or China PR.
The decider will be held at Amman International Stadium at 3:00am AEST on Saturday morning.
STORY OF THE GAME
- SHOT: Chloe Logarzo fires from a narrow angle, but Waraporn Boonsing does well to push it around the near post.
- GOAL! Australia have an early lead as Kanjanaporn heads into her own net.
- GOAL! But parity is immediately restored, Kanjana catching Arnold off her line for the equaliser.
- CHANCE: Arnold turns the ball over a long way from goal, but this time Kanjana gets her attempted chip wrong.
- CHANCE: Elise Kellond-Knight's corner pinballs around the box before Kyah Simon blazes over from the edge of the area.
- CHANCE: Big opportunity for Thailand goes begging as Laura Alleway and Ellie Carpenter scramble back to make vital blocks after Kanjana broke through and rounded Arnold.
- SAVE: More panic in defence with half-time substitute Steph Catley's undersold a back-pass forcing Arnold into a one-on-one denial of Kanjana, before Silawan Intamee wastes the follow-up chance.
- GOAL! Rattikan punishes a pair of Australian errors to put Thailand into the lead with just under half an hour remaining.
- SAVE: Kanjana squares to Silawan, whose finish is parried away by Arnold.
- CLOSE: Sam Kerr, on as a 70th-minute substitute, bursts past several Thailand defenders and fires marginally wide.
- RED CARD! Wilaiporn Boothduang is given her marching orders in the 87th minute, earning a second yellow for tripping Kerr.
- GOAL! KENNEDY TO THE RESCUE! She draws Australia level right at the death with a thumping header.
- SAVE: Waraporn somehow denies Lisa De Vanna at point-blank range following Kennedy's downward header.
- MISS: An unmarked Kerr balloons a golden chance over the bar.
- AUSTRALIA MISS: Emily Van Egmond spoons over the bar.
- THAILAND SCORE: Ainon Phancha sends Arnold the wrong way.
- AUSTRALIA SCORE: Kellond-Knight converts low to the right.
- THAILAND MISS: Stunning save Arnold to push Sunisa Srangthaisong's attempt onto the post and out.
- AUSTRALIA MISS: Waraporn picks De Vanna's direction and parries.
- THAILAND MISS: Arnold goes to her right to deny Sunisa Srangthaisong.
- AUSTRALIA SCORE: Catley generates enough power to the keeper's right.
- THAILAND MISS: Arnold saves again, moving late to push out Pitsamai Sornsai's shot.
- AUSTRALIA SCORE: Kerr coolly rolls in the winner.
Kanjanaporn Saengkoon (OG), Australia 17': 1-0
Following a short corner, Emily Gielnik fires a cross to the near post where Kanjanaporn inadvertently heads backwards and beyond Waraporn.
Kanjana Sung-Ngoen, Thailand 20': 1-1
Australia's high line is exposed as Kanjana races onto a ball over the top and sees her first-time lob of Arnold slip through the back-tracking goalkeeper's hands.
Rattikan Thongsombut, Thailand 63': 1-2
Kennedy is surprised by Arnold's horribly sliced clearance and her heavy touch back into the area is pounced upon by Rattikan, who lashes the loose ball into the top left corner.
Alanna Kennedy, Australia 90'+1: 2-2
Clutch from Kennedy as Elise Kellond-Knight's superb inswinging corner lands on the unmarked defender's head, and she buries a commanding header.