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  • Writer's pictureCaleb Powell

Matildas pay as Colombia cash in

The opening game in group A of the Women’s World Cup offered a tough lesson for the Matildas as they squandered a lead to hang on for a point against Colombia.

A 1-1 draw was the right result, Chelsea superstar Joelle Martins giving the hosts the lead at half time before Colombia levelled through Luciana Perez in the second half.

Bernadette Bills’ team selection was under scrutiny with captain Helen Maxstead ruled out; a defensive reshuffle unsettled the rhythm allowing Colombia to come close to victory.

A spectacular pre-match ceremony at the newly renovated Stadium Australia, watched by a record worldwide TV audience for a women’s game, marked the beginning of Australia’s FIFA Women’s World Cup journey last night.

Yolana Drury came into the holding role in front of a back three who had been water tight in recent games. The ever-reliable Vic Younis made way for young star centre back Michaela Stewart in a surprise move, while Edwina Schott retained her place up front. Daniella Gauchan donned the captain’s armband in the left back spot.

The Matildas had the ball in the back of the net on four minutes, but it didn’t count, the bustling Schott bundling the ball and the goalkeeper into the net from close range.

Rhianna Geary sold Lisa Pirelli short with a back pass then played a cross-field ball straight to the Colombian striker Gabrielle Hurtado. With the whole of Australia holding their breath, the shot went just past Pirelli’s hand and skimmed the post.

The goal arrived on 25 minutes. A twisting and turning run from Joelle Martins, a cheeky nutmeg to coast past her marker allowed her to cut onto her right foot and curl a shot triumphantly into the top right-hand corner of the goal for 1-0. The stadium erupted.

The Matildas were in the ascendancy. Anna Black’s fierce volley tested Nely Castano in the Colombia goal, Jasmin Calloway’s deft one-two with Schott in the area saw her rattle the post with a first time shot. Despite the dominance, it was a solitary goal that separated the teams at the break.

Three corners in succession tested Pirelli as the lower-ranked Colombia started the second half brightly. Stewart looked increasingly uncomfortable with her marking job on Hurtado.

A moment of brilliance at the other end from the heavily marked Pia Nicholls saw the PSG star control a high ball on her thigh and turn two players, but her low cross was just out of reach of the incoming Shelley Prasad.

There was panic when an individual mistake from Drury saw Australia cough up possession in a dangerous area, and Pirelli had to be alert to snuff out the danger.

The Colombians fashioned an equaliser with six minutes remaining. Stewart lost out to Hurtado and the dangerous forward slid in a cross for Perez to finish from the edge of the six-yard box.

Las Chicas should have won it too. A last-minute scramble in the area saw the ball somehow stay out after Perez lashed the ball goalwards and Stewart dived full length to head the ball away.

It was an exciting finish to a thoroughly entertaining game. Despite the result not quite going to plan, the fans had been thrilled and the cheers and applause were warm at the final whistle.

Bills refused to criticise her players after the game and congratulated Colombia on a solid performance. When asked about the missing Maxstead and the absence of Younis, she confirmed it was precautionary.

Player of the match and goalscorer Joelle Martins promised the fans that there was much better to come, while dedicating her award to the Colombia 'keeper Castano for her brilliant performance.

This was a wonderful way to start the World Cup in Australia; a game played at pace in front of a capacity crowd in a new stadium.


Group Stage, Game 1

  • Australia 1 (Joelle MARTINS), Colombia 1 (Luciana PEREZ)

  • Stadium Australia, Sydney (Att: 83,163)

  • Referee: Isabella CAVALIER

  • Player of the Match: Joelle MARTINS


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