Westfield Matildas snatch late draw with England
A late goal from defender Clare Polkinghorne has seen the Westfield Matildas emerge with a hard-fought 1-1 draw with England at Craven Cottage on Wednesday morning (AEDT).
The Lionesses enjoyed the better of an absorbing clash in London and looked on course for victory as they led for more than an hour through Fran Kirby’s first-half goal.
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But with just six minutes left Polkinghorne was Australia’s hero, rising highest to power in a header from a corner to see the Westfield Matildas snatch a draw.
It was a reward for an improved showing by the Aussies after the break and sees them end their tour of Europe with a positive result after Saturday’s 2-0 loss to France in Saint-Etienne.
Westfield Matildas boss Alen Stajcic handed first international starts to teenagers Amy Sayer and Princess Ibini, while midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight was skipper in her 100th senior cap.
It was the Lionesses that dominated possession and the chances in the early stages, and they deservedly got their breakthrough midway through the first-half through star striker Kirby.
The goal seemed to knock Australia into action with the side then enjoying their best spell, with both Sayer and Ibini testing the keeper with shots from distance.
But the Westfield Matildas rode their luck to go to the break just one goal down, with an incorrect offside call and possible penalty call both going against the home side.
Australia were almost back on level terms early in the second-half as Ibini was denied by a brilliant reflex save from Mary Earps.
While the hosts continued to apply pressure, the Westfield Matildas showed great resilience and defended doggedly to stay in the contest.
Like she did against France on Saturday, the introduction of Mary Fowler lifted the Westfield Matildas and the 15-year-old gave a glimpse of her talent with a great run and shot which almost drew the visitor’s level.
Carpenter went close with another chance seven minutes from time but from the resulting corner, Polkinghorne came up with the moment that mattered for Australia.
While the Westfield Matildas ended their European sojourn without a win, it’s all valuable experience heading towards next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
Australia now turns their attention towards next month’s home friendlies against Chile in Penrith and Newcastle.
England 1 (Kirby 21’)
Westfield Matildas 1 (Polkinghorne 84’)
Westfield Matildas Starting XI: 18. Mackenzie Arnold, 2. Amy Sayer (15. Emily Gielnik 55’), 4. Clare Polkinghorne, 6. Chloe Logarzo (23. Alex Chidiac 81’), 7. Steph Catley, 8. Elise Kellond-Knight, 9. Caitlin Foord, 11. Lisa De Vanna (5. Mary Fowler 66’), 13. Tameka Butt, 21. Ellie Carpenter, 20. Princess Ibini (22. Larissa Crummer 66’)
Substitutes not used: 12. Jada Whyman, 17. Kyah Simon, 3. Aivi Luik
5’ EARLY CHANCE FOR ENGLAND – A lapse in concentration in the Westfield Matildas defence saw Beth Mead through one-on-one with Mackenzie Arnold but the Aussie shot-stopper is out quickly to apply the pressure and the shot is wide of the target.
8’ ARNOLD WITH CLUTCH SAVE – Mead gets on the end of Lucy Bronze’s cross from the right and produces a clever back heel at the near-post but Arnold shows great reflexes to claw the ball away down low to her left.
21’ KIRBY GETS THE BREAKTHROUGH – Steph Catley’s tricky back pass put Arnold under the pump and her scuffed clearance was picked up by Mead in the box. The winger found Kirby in the box who turned smartly and slammed it home.
29’ AUSSIES FINDING THEIR RHYTHM – The Westfield Matildas began to build some pressure with teenager Sayer firing off two shots in the space of a minute that forced English keeper Mary Earps into saves.
34’ CHANCES AT BOTH ENDS – A crazy few seconds as first Arnold does superbly to make a stunning double-save to deny Stephanie Houghton and then Mead from close range. The keeper then launches the ball forward with Ibini on the end of it and firing off a fizzing low shot which forces Earps into a good stop.
44’ HUGE LET-OFF FOR AUSTRALIA – The Lionesses had the ball in the back of the net after Kirby set-up Lucy Staniforth but the goal was ruled out for offside. Replays suggested the goal should have been awarded.
48’ IBINI CLOSE TO EQUALISER – Good movement by the Aussies ends with Lisa De Vanna slipping a ball in behind for Ibini and the winger’s shot forces Earps into a stretched save with her foot.
51’ ARNOLD DENIES ENGLAND AGAIN – Kirby plays in Toni Duggan who hits a powerful shot on an angle but Arnold is well-placed on her near post to keep it out.
61’ POLKS TO THE RESCUE – Kirby looked like scoring her second when she got on the end of Mead’s pass, rounded Arnold and got a shot away at a tough angle. But Clare Polkinghorne got back to clear the ball as it headed towards goal.
70’ FOWLER’S IMMEDIATE IMPACT – Just a few minutes after coming on as a substitute, 15-year-old Mary Fowler twisted and turned to find space on the edge of the box only to blaze her shot just over the bar.
83’ CARPENTER FORCES A SAVE – The right-back cut a swathe through the England defence, playing a neat one-two with Emily Gielnik before unleashing a wicked shot which force Earps into a fingertip save.
84’ POLKINGHORNE WITH THE EQUALISER – Kellond-Knight’s corner was perfectly placed for Polkinghorne to plant a powerful header into the back of the net from close range.