The Westfield Matildas have finished on top of the standings and gone through the final Olympic qualifying tournament undefeated after a brilliant strike from Emily van Egmond gave them a 1-1 draw with China P.R. in Osaka on Wednesday night.
Van Egmond’s stunning 85th minute strike cancelled out Ma Xiaoxu’s 16th minute opener to leave the Westfield Matildas with four wins and a draw from their five matches but most importantly with a spot at the Rio Olympics safely in their keeping.
A fifth game in ten days was always going to take its toll eventually and by the end both teams began to show signs of fatigue following the gruelling tournament schedule.
Despite both the Westfield Matildas and China P.R. having already qualified coming into the final match day, both sides appeared determined to end the tournament on a winning note.
The Westfield Matildas went close to going ahead in the 5th minute when Caitlin Foord showed some sublime skill in the wet slippery conditions and rifled a shot that skimmed the upside of the crossbar.
The Westfield Matildas were enjoying the lion’s share of possession in the first 15 minutes but it was China who broke the deadlock when a cross from Liu Shanshan was perfectly weighted over Laura Alleway and onto the head of veteran Ma Xiaoxu who managed to send her header past Mackenzie Arnold.
The goal was the first time the Westfield Matildas had found themselves behind in the tournament.
The Westfield Matildas came close to equalising in the 33rd minute when Kyah Simon skimmed a ball across the goal face that went agonisingly past Foord’s outstretched boot.
Clare Polkinghorne replaced Ellie Carpenter at the start of the second half at right back after China had channelled much of their attack down Australia’s right hand side in the opening 45 minutes.
A compact and organised China P.R. were proving difficult to break down as they constantly broke up promising Australian forays forward.
Arnold pulled off a fine save to keep the deficit at one and then in the 85th minute the Westfield Matildas’ persistence was rewarded as van Egmond struck one of the goals of the tournament as she leaned into a shot on the outside of her right foot from distance that curled away from the diving Zhao Lina and into the top corner.
The Westfield Matildas almost stole all three points in the 89th minute when substitute Michelle Heyman found an unmarked Lisa De Vanna with time and space but the veteran blazed her shot high and wide leaving the Westfield Matildas having to be content with a draw.
There were scenes of exhaustion from both teams at the final whistle and while it was not the celebrations of two nights ago, it was mission complete for the Westfield Matildas as they look forward to representing Australia in the women’s football tournament at the Rio Olympics.
Westfield Matildas 1 (van Egmond 85’)
China P.R. 1 (Ma Xiaoxu 16’)
@ Yanmar Stadium Nagai, Osaka
Referee: Stephanie Frappart (France)
Westfield Matildas starting line-up: 18.Mackenzie ARNOLD (gk), 3.Caitlin COOPER, 5.Laura ALLEWAY, 7.Steph CATLEY, 9.Caitlin FOORD, 10.Emily VAN EGMOND, 11.Lisa DE VANNA (c), 13.Tameka BUTT (16.Michelle HEYMAN 61’), 17.Kyah SIMON, 19.Katrina GORRY (8.Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT 78’), 20.Ellie CARPENTER (4.Clare POLKINGHORNE 46’)
Substitutes not used: 1.Lydia WILLIAMS (gk), 2.Ashleigh SYKES, 6.Chloe LOGARZO, 12.Casey DUMONT (gk), 14.Alanna KENNEDY, 15.Emily GIELNIK
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Nil
China P.R. starting line-up: 1.Zhao Lina (gk), 2.Liu Shanshan, 4.Yang Man (7.Ren Guixin 46’), 5.Wu Haiyan, 6.Li Dongna (c), 9.Ma Xiaoxu (17.Gu Yasha 66’), 10.Li Ying (20.Zhang Rui 77’), 11.Wang Shanshan, 14.Zhao Rong, 15.Lou Jiahui, 19.Tan Ruyin
Substitutes not used: 3.Xue Jiao, 8.Zhao Xue, 12.Wang Shuang, 13.Zhang Yue (gk), 16.Bi Xiaolin, 18.Han Peng
Yellow cards: Tan Ruyin 90+2’
Red cards: Nil