Australia’s Kyah Simon working past New Zealand’s Katie Hoyle (4) and Betsy Hassett (12)
By Ann Odong
In front of a crowd of 2,866 parochial supporters, the Westfield Matildas have defeated their trans-tasman rivals New Zealand outfit 2-1 at Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford. Goals to Catherine Cannuli and Collette McCallum were enough for the home side to see of the challenge of the New Zealanders despite Hannah Wilkinson’s first half equalizer. A midweek 3-0 victory, and a superior FIFA world ranking, saw the Matildas entered the match strong favorites and they started as such. Controlling possession, the Australian’s looked to exploit the visitor’s early. Just nine minutes in they had the breakthrough.
Released into space on the right flank, Kerr’s in-swinging cross found the late run of Cannuli with the Sydney FC striker heading home neatly. Despite conceding early, the New Zealanders were not to be cowed and several moments later Ria Percival attempted an audacious 30 yard lob, with Matildas captain Melissa Barbieri slightly off her line. Equal to the task, the veteran calmly averted the danger by tipping the dipping ball over the crossbar.
Goalscorer Catherine Cannuli
However, the Football Ferns were not to be denied, and in the 26th minute, a strong wing run by Ali Riley ended in a traveling low cross into a crowded penalty box. Her teammate Wilkinson was quickest to react and brought the Ferns level by turning in the ball on the goal mouth. Despite the efforts of both sides, the two were to go into the halftime break locked at 1-1.
The second half began much like the first with Australia gaining the midfield ascendancy through vice captain McCallum and Sally Shipard. But despite the possession, Simon and Co. were unable trouble Jenny Bindon’s goal.
Ten minutes into the half, that changed when the ever-active Tameka Butt drew a foul just inches from the penalty area. Barely 18 yards out, up stepped dead ball specialist McCallum who slotted the free kick into the bottom left corner of past a flat-footed Bindon.
Both sides continually in the half, but neither were able to breakdown the other in an increasingly physical encounter leaving the Matildas to increase their winning streak against the New Zealanders to 21.
“We made eight changes to the team from our game on Thursday and when you do that you lose some of your fluidity and cohesion,” Australia Coach Tom Sermanni said about the performance. “I think we learned that some of our players are a little bit short of a gallop and need some more hardened match play. But the really good thing for today, despite all of that, is that we won the game. When you are playing international football and getting ready for the World Cup, and you want the confidence of your team to remain high, that’s an important aspect of the game.”
The match ends an eventful period for the Matildas in their World Cup preparation. Injuries to key players, including striker Kate Gill and more recently midfielder Heather Garriock and defender Thea Slatyer, have set back the No. 11 ranked Matildas. None of this was helped by the news that star striker Lisa De Vanna was dismissed from the camp due to disciplinary reasons. De Vanna is now on her way back to train with her WPS side magicJack.
Talking about De Vanna and World Cup selection, Sermanni was quite forthcoming.
“The key factor and always the key factor when I come to make my decision is what is the best interests of the team,” he said. “To be perfectly honest, right at this moment in time, I’m not quite sure what the future is.”
Australia 2 (Catherine CANNULI 9’, Collette MCCALLUM 55’) New Zealand 1 (Hannah WILKINSON 27’)
Sunday, 15 May 2011 Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford Local kick-off: 3.00pm AEST Referee: Kate Jacewicz Assistant referees: Allyson Flynn Airlie Keen Fourth official: Peta McCallum Crowd: 2,866
Westfield Matildas: 1. Melissa BARBIERI (gk)(c), 4. Clare POLKINGHORNE (2. Ellyse PERRY 64’), 6. Servet UZUNLAR, 14. Collette MCCALLUM (30. Emily VAN EGMOND 83’), 15. Sally SHIPARD, 16. Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, 17. Kyah SIMON, 20. Catherine CANNULI (19. Leena KHAMIS 46’), 22. Sam KERR, 23. Kim CARROLL, 24. Tameka BUTT