A Sarah Walsh brace saw the Westfield Matildas produce another gutsy win against a determined New Zealand side in Wollongong.
The strikers’ goals, either side of halftime, were her 30th and 31st goals for the Westfield Matildas and sees her only seven goals behind Cheryl Salisbury’s all-time goal scoring record.
While the Westfield Matildas were on the back foot in the early stages of the match they quickly gained their composure following some early scares and battled for possession with the Football Ferns throughout the first half.
Westfield Matildas captain Melissa Barbieri managed to keep her 34th clean sheet with some help from the crossbar in the first half but was dominant throughout putting in another classy performance for the green and gold.
New Zealand lacked composure in front of goal on several occasions with Amber Hearn and Sarah Gregorious both squandering gilt-edged chances.
Caitlin Foord, on home turf, again showed her class and ran riot against the Kiwi side from the outset.
While New Zealand looked the more dominant early on it took only a moment of sharp lead up play following a period of heavy pressure from the New Zealanders for Australia to pounce.
Similar to the previous game it took an Ellyse Perry whipped cross to get the Australian side on the score board with Walsh’s opening goal expertly headed past Rebecca Rolls in the New Zealand goals.
With the Aussies going in at halftime a goal up, the second half showed a renewed confidence in the team and the introduction of Catherine Cannuli to the midfield proved valuable as the Westfield Matildas began to dictate play and stretch the Football Ferns across the park.
A quick ball on the counter gave Walsh her second chance to target the New Zealand goal with the pacy striker zeroing in on Rolls’ goal from the right and blasting an 18-yard strike into the far corner.
A strike from distance by Cannuli whisked past the left post of the New Zealand goal to keep the Football Ferns in the game for the final 20 minutes.
Melbourne Victory duo Ashley Brown and Stephanie Catley again dominated the left side of Australia’s attack with the two players growing in confidence as the match wore on.
Brown’s 60 meter run down the left side saw the Melbourne schoolgirl glide past several defenders before cutting a cross back into the path of substitute Hayley Raso, but the young Gold Coast product could not outjump her opponent.
For the remainder of the second half Catley and Brown seemingly took turns putting the New Zealand side on the back foot with powerful, penetrating runs and delivery into the box but the Aussies couldn’t quite manage to turn the screws and put the game away for good.
Westfield Matildas coach Tom Sermanni again used his full quota of substitutes with local girl Caitlin Cooper getting her second international cap, her first since 2007. Nicola Bolger was also given her debut with five minutes remaining on the clock and proved vital in clearing a late Hayley Moorwood effort off the line following a corner.
“Well, you could say we got away with that one but to be honest we played some pretty decent football in patches and as the game wore on we created a lot of chances,” said Sermanni.
“We came here with an untried and untested team and walked away with a win and a draw against a team in its final preparations for the London Olympics so I am definitely pleased with the result.
“I’ll sit down over the next few days and analyse the performances before selecting the team for our match in Japan next month.”
“There was a lot of pressure for the older girls going into this game to keep the unbeaten streak against New Zealand,” said Walsh.
“It’s something that a lot of people don’t understand, it’s been 18 years since they’ve beaten us and you don’t want to be part of ‘that team’ that loses it.
“They’ve had a lot more preparation than us and are off to the Olympics so the pressure was really on and I’ve got to say the young girls really stepped up today.
“It was good to get back on the score sheet again, the first one Ellyse Perry’s cross was pinpoint. I don’t normally get up for headers but I put it away cleanly.
“I had a couple of other chances that I missed in the first half so I was determined to make that one (her second goal) count. I took it in my stride and when I got inside the area I put it exactly where I wanted it.
“To be able to score two goals, especially in a match like this, was a huge relief.”
The Westfield Matildas play Japan in a one-off international friendly on July 11 at the National Stadium, Tokyo.