The Matildas kept alive their Tournament of Nation hopes with a 2-0 victory over their Asian Cup conquerors Japan. Alanna Kennedy’s free kick goal in the 47th minute and a late strike from Samantha Kerr proved the difference in an evenly-matched contest on Friday morning (AEST) in Bridgeview, Illinois.
It was sweet revenge for the Matildas, who dominated Japan in April’s Asian Cup final but slumped to a 1-0 defeat. It also completes a nearly blemish-free campaign for coach Alen Stajcic’s side at the Tournament of Nations.
They will secure the title for the second straight year if the United States draw against Brazil or win by only a one-goal margin later on Friday. Australia beat Brazil 3-1 in their opening match and drew 1-1 with the Americans on Monday (AEST) after conceding a late goal from a corner kick.
The Matildas were disjointed early against Japan – so much so that Stajcic made a double substitution in the 29th minute, sending on Larissa Crummer and Emily Gielnik for Lisa De Vanna and Clare Polkinghorne.
Gielnik ended up spurning Australia’s best chance of the first half, lashing wide a loose clearance from Japanese goalkeeper Chika Hirao that fell to her. Three minutes later Matildas custodian Lydia Williams tipped a dipping Kumi Yokoyama free kick over the bar. But defender Kennedy’s dead-ball effort just after the break put Australia in front, with her shot from the corner of the penalty area beating Hirao at her near post.
Shortly afterwards Kerr and Hayley Raso both went close to making it 2-0 with shots on goal within three minutes of each other – the former’s header was saved while the latter’s effort was deflected wide.
Kerr, who was playing at the same venue her NWSL club Chicago Red Stars call home, eventually doubled the advantage in the 81st minute. Hirao rushed out of her box in an attempt to cut off a through ball but misjudged it badly presenting Kerr with the chance to round her and a Japanese defender before rolling the ball into an empty net.