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  • Writer's pictureSammy Luiz

Scotland the brave, but Matildas too strong

Australia kick-started their World Cup campaign at Melbourne’s Docklands Stadium with a solid 3-1 win against a battling Scotland.

Goals from Jasmin Calloway, Pia Nicholls and an exquisite Anna Black free kick were enough to turn the game around after Scotland took an early second-half lead through talisman Christine Wright.

Matildas coach Bernadette Bills praised the professionalism and patience of her players. They have qualification for the knockout stages in their hands moving into the final round of group games.

Vic Younis was recalled to the starting eleven, coming in to give some composure and presence at the back, Helen Maxstead returned from her niggle in midfield and the speed of Hannah Cooper was preferred to the strength and height of Edwina Schott up front.

Anna Black was the odd one out and dropped to the bench in a more defensive Matildas line-up.

A rousing rendition of Flower of Scotland was almost as spine-tingling as the Advance Australia Fair that followed. Scotland started brightly and forced a series of corners. Had the flame-haired Wright connected with a whipped cross on ten minutes, Australia would have found themselves a goal down.

The Matildas rallied and Rhianna Geary played in Calloway, who swivelled and crossed to the far post for Cooper to meet with a header, turned over acrobatically by Ellie McInally in the Scotland goal.

A quick Matildas break saw Maxstead shoot over when well placed, a neat chip by Shelley Prasad bounced off the top of the bar with McInally back-pedalling fast.

Locked at 0-0 at the break, an enforced substitution early in the second half changed the complexion of the game. It coincided with Scotland taking the lead in bizarre circumstances.

Stewart received a knee in the back when shielding the ball down in her own corner, winning a free kick. In obvious discomfort, her hastily-taken free kick went straight to Wright who drew Pirelli and side-footed home in front of the Scotland fans.

Amidst confusion as the fans and the Matildas players questioned the validity of the goal, the Scotland players rejoiced in front of their supporters. Australia were now behind.

Black replaced the forlorn Stewart, escorted from the field in distress. Younis cut out a pass and fed Joelle Martins down the left, who dribbled intricately along the by-line and cut the ball back for Calloway to fire into the net from close range for the equaliser.

Scotland keeper McInally kept the scores level with a string of saves as Scotland threatened to put another dampener on the Matildas stuttering World Cup campaign, but she could do nothing on 70 minutes when Black fed Nicholls with an inch-perfect through-ball and Nicholls did what she does best, firing under the keeper to give Australia the lead.

Geary’s misplaced clearance was then drilled just wide by Scotland’s dangerous Wright and a wayward clearance from Pirelli went unpunished.

With five minutes remaining, Maxstead’s incisive through ball saw Nicholls take on former Sydney FC defender Harriette Johnstone, only to be checked in mid-flight. Maxstead and Black stood over the free kick and it was Black who stepped up to curl a left foot shot over the wall past a surprised McInally to seal the win.

Three minutes of injury time were played down expertly by Australia and the final whistle was greeted with a huge roar.

Player of the match Helen Maxstead praised the patience of her team when faced with injury and going a goal down. Australia now turn their attention to Sunday’s final group game with only a point required to secure their passage.


Group stage, Game 2

  • Scotland 1 (Christine WRIGHT 50'), Australia 3 (Jasmin CALLOWAY 54', Pia NICHOLLS 70', Anna BLACK 85')

  • Docklands Stadium, Melbourne (Att: 51,296)

  • Referee: Huan LIU

  • Player of the Match: Helen Maxstead


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