Sydney FC claim A-League Women championship after defeat of Melbourne City

The irrepressible Sydney FC have beaten Melbourne City 1-0 to claim a record fifth A-League Women championship, and their second in a row.

Premiers City dominated possession but super-sub Shea Connors struck in the 69th minute, brilliantly assisted by teen sensation Indiana Dos Santos, to send the Sky Blues into ecstasy.

Both teams were on four titles heading into Saturday’s clash at AAMI Park in Melbourne, which took place in front of 7671 fans.

It was the second-highest grand final attendance ever, after the 9519 in Sydney last year.

Sky Blues midfielder Mackenzie Hawkesby was named player of the match.

City right-back Bryleeh Henry was superb and Julia Grosso shut down Matildas star Cortnee Vine, while Sydney FC defenders Charlotte Mclean and Jordan Thompson kept the dangerous Hannah Wilkinson quiet.

The Melbourne side suffered a blow before the game, with goalkeeper Barbara ruled out with a quad strain.

Veteran Melissa Barbieri stepped in, with Emily Shields signed late as a back-up.

Despite her 27-year professional career and more than 80 caps for the Matildas, it was Barbieri’s first start in a grand final.

She made a sharp one-handed save to deny Thompson inside the opening minute, while her Sydney counterpart Jada Whyman was also called into action early to deny Wilkinson.

In the 11th minute, City teenager Daniela Galic bamboozled multiple Sydney defenders but her tame close-range effort was easily claimed by Whyman.

The Sky Blues almost pinched a goal at the end of the half after Stott slipped and Hawkesby pounced, but the Sydney midfielder attempted to pass rather than shoot and Henry recovered to clean up.

In the 64th minute it was City’s turn to go close, Taylor Otto dragging a shot wide of the far post.

Sydney skipper Princess Ibini set a record by playing in her eighth decider, but made way for Connors in the 67th minute – and it proved a master stroke from coach Ante Juric.

Two minutes later, a poor Rebekah Stott header fell to Shay Hollman, who worked the ball to Dos Santos.

The 16-year-old pulled off a wonderful pass to find Connors, who beat City’s defence for pace, burst forward and struck a first-time shot past Barbieri.

Dario Vidosic’s City spurned multiple good chances to equalise and were left to rue what might have been.

Hughes shot over the bar in the 79th minute, and Leticia McKenna appeared destined to score four minutes later only to be denied by a Hollman clearance over the bar.

Rhianna Pollicina should have levelled the tie in the 84th minute after a Whyman clearance fell to her, but with the goal beckoning she blasted over the bar.

Check out how the game unfolded in our liveblog below.

Key events

So long, glorious Dub

Well, it’s been an epic season. The first home-and-away season in A-League Women history, record-breaking attendances and broadcast audiences, all in the afterglow of that incredible Women’s World Cup.

I’ll have plenty more to say about how Sydney’s incredible win tonight speaks to these bigger trends and themes, but for now, it’s time to say goodbye to what has been a sensational season of Dub.

Thank you all so much for joining me on the blog today, and I’ll be seeing you again when the Matildas take on China at the end of the month.

Until then – GO SYDNEY! And cyas!

Post-game scenes

The podium has been erected on the field, with a big blue arch set up nearby behind a CHAMPIONS sign.

Sydney FC midfielder Mackenzie Hawkesby is named Player of the Match for an immense effort. She really has been the saviour of Sydney’s season in so many ways, so it’s fabulous to see her recognised.

The players of Melbourne City are now filing acrss the stage to receive medals and shake hands with a couple representatives of the A-Leagues.

They’re all looking absolutely shattered, as you’d expect. Some were in tears after the final whistle. To have come so far but have fallen short right on the brink of history has gotta hurt.

It’s the Sydney players’ turns now. They’re all wearing scarves, which they wrap around the necks of the young girls who’ve been recruited from a local club to hand out their medals.

There’s a small but vocal group of hardcore Sydney fans down one end of the field waving banners and scarves and singing for their players. Great effort from them all to travel down to watch their team defend their championship title.

Analysis corner with Big Ben

A really enjoyable match of tactics – nuts at the start as someone tried to get the early advantage – no deal. Then all tensed up for remainder of first half. Then in the second the tactical difference I think was Sydney subbing when they wanted, and Melbourne City subbing when they needed. Melbourne cracked, which lit things up nicely for the rest of the (oddly long) time. Well done ALW. Well done Sydney. Well done Connors, Well done Sam and thank you 🙂

– Big Ben

Great summary of the match here from Ben, one of the blog’s regulars.

I think you’re spot-on, Ben. The timing of Sydney’s substitution of Connors was definitely key, whereas it looked like City were maybe hedging their bets on the game going to extra-time and wanting fresh legs.

But it came back to bite ’em almost immediately.

Your reactions (to my mum??)

Drinks are on Sandye tonight! 😊🏆🍾🥂

– Leo

Sandeye….golf champ…one eyed Sky Blue…and Samantha’s Mum…some people have all the luck!!!

– stumcin

Final thoughts

As soon as the whistle blew, Sydney FC’s entire bench ran out onto the field in a dark blue wave of noise and flailing arms.

It’s almost unbelievable that they’ve won this considering the stats of this game: 28% possession, just 3 shots on target, and only one corner.

This wasn’t about trying to play football, though. This was about trying to find a single moment and capitalising. And when Melissa Barbieri mis-timed her sprint off the line, allowing Shea Connors to squeeze the ball beneath her legs, that was all the moment Sydney FC needed.

From there, it was bunkering in and trying to survive the storm of a City side who realised, finally, that they were playing in a grand final, and that grand finals require something else than what got them the premiership.

They tried – god knows, they tried – and those final, endless minutes of extra time were panic-stations, throwing everything they could at a team that had defended so brilliantly all game, trying to create moments of their own.

They had some, but the players who you’d usually expect to grasp them – Rhianna Pollicina, Emina Ekic, Laura Hughes – tonight, simply, couldn’t.

By the end, it was the team who’s battled through wars of their own, who weathered the ups and downs of the whole season and came out the other side champions.

Sydney FC can now lay claim to being the most successful team in A-League Women history. A fifth championship to match their five premierships. And they did it, this season, with the youngest team in the league. Is there any team who will ever be able to do what they’ve done again? I doubt it.

My mum won golf AND her team won the Dub grand final

the double!! woo hoo! well done SFC!

– Sandye

She’s your lucky charm, Sydney fans!!!

FULL-TIME: SYDNEY FC WIN 1-0!

THE SKY BLUES DEFEND THEIR A-LEAGUE WOMEN CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE!

96′ Everyone’s up!

City’s formation is basically a 5-4-1, having thrown as many as they can risk forward to try and find a last-ditch equaliser.

But the final pass just isn’t there. They’ve sent dozens of corners into Sydney’s penalty area, but none of them have been met by a team-mate. They’ve tried to squeeze and wriggle and pass their way through and behind and around, but they just can’t find someone to twist the final knife.

One thing’s for sure: this has been a hell of an impressive mature performance by Sydney. The youngest team in the league, a team that wasn’t favoured to take this out, but who, somehow, find themselves on the brink of a fifth championship title.

93′ Crash-and-bash

Melbourne City are running out of ideas. Sydney’s dark blue wall has held firm all game, anchored by the excellent Jordan Thompson and Charlotte McLean, and they just haven’t been able to find a crack.

So they’re just throwing themselves at Sydney’s players now. Taylor Otto isn’t a centre-back anymore, she’s a miscellaneous midfielder, using her height and strength to try and crash her way through Sydney’s defence.

It’s route-one balls from City at this point, over the top or through, just trying to create any possible half-opening that they could swing a hopeful foot at.

But Sydney are holding. And holding. And holding. Sometimes, they nick the ball away to a Cortnee Vine or a Mackenzie Hawkesby, who pump their tired legs to try and move it away from their own goal. But mostly they’re just sitting deep and trying to protect this lead.

9 minutes of added time

Where the HECK did that come from!?

Who cares! It’s time for chaos.

88′ City keep coming!!

Now we have a game…Melbourne City are throwing the kitchen sink!

– stumcin

Sydney FC need to be careful going into the late stages of the game, Melbourne City are desperate for the equaliser and will no doubt capitalise on any and every chance they get.

– Adam

Wave after wave of attack as they try to equalise!

Sydney are scrambling – trying to hold their nerve, stay calm and structured – but a single wrong step or bad decision could spell the end.

City are slicker now, faster, sharper in their angles and movements.

Galic nips the ball away from a sloppy Abbey Lemon and dinks it back over Whyman’s diving hands, trying desperately to find Emina Ekic at the back post, but it flies just over her leaping ponytail.

The crowd is up now, getting louder, trying to push the home side on. The minutes are slipping away. There’s not long left to keep their double hopes alive.

85′ Chance City!!

The home side attack again with some strong individual work from Daniela Galic in the box, slipping the ball through three Sydney defenders to McKenna on the right wing.

She clips a cross backwards, over the top of Sydney’s pack of defenders, and although Whyman gets a glove to the ball to slap it away, it falls right to the feet of Rhianna Pollicina.

She has nobody around her – she just needs to wait for the ball to fall perfectly – but her eventual shot flies over the crossbar instead.

She puts her head in her hands. That was the biggest chance she’s had all night. Should have buried it.

83′ CHANCE CITY!

OH MY GOODNESS!

The resulting free-kick is beautifully dipping towards the back post, and falls perfectly to Leticia McKenna.

The substitute takes a touch inside onto her left foot and rifles a shot towards goal.

Jada Whyman is already flying across to stop it but the ball is going above her, but Shay Hollman leaps into the air and heads it right over the crossbar.

The young midfielder celebrates like she’d scored. She just prevented an almost-guaranteed equaliser. Incredible.

82′ Yellow card Sydney

Tori Tumeth got turned around by Daniela Galic near the sideline and, in response, the Sydney defender just clambers into the City teenager and the two tumble into the ground.

It looks like Tumeth slipped slightly in the turf, but the referee didn’t see it, instead giving her the second yellow card of the game.

Galic is furious, she stands over Tumeth intimidatingly as a team-mate tries to get in the way to stop it from getting any more heated.

The players disperse to get ready for the free-kick.

79′ Chance City

Rhianna Pollicina almost breaks through Sydney’s defensive line, but Charlotte McLean does well to scramble back and sling a leg in the way to scoop the ball away from the City midfielder.

But it’s not quite enough and it falls straight to (I think) Laura Hughes, who cuts inside and takes a few steps towards the top of the box before rocketing a shot well over the crossbar.

78′ City 0 – 1 Sydney

There’s some chat in the media box about who’s been the Player of the Match.

It’s been a tough one considering this has been an arm-wrestle of a game, with neither team really having any clear stand-outs.

Daniela Galic has shown flashes of brilliance for City, but Sydney have been really sturdy in midfield with Mackenzie Hawkesby and Shay Hollman in particular.

Who do you reckon has been the MVP so far, team? Help us do the votes.

77′ City substitution

Leticia McKenna comes on for Hannah Wilkinson.

Official attendance: 7,671

It’s the second-highest crowd for an A-League Women grand final in history, though you’d have to think it should have been much higher considering some of the numbers we’ve seen throughout the season.

Your goal reactions!

Brilliant substitution! Great ball from Indiana! ⚽️😊

– Leo

Through pass on target! Neatly done, smart subbing.

– Big Ben

What a time to score your first goal for the season….We got Connors… Super Shea Connors!

– stumcin

GOALLL!!!!!! Yes!!!!!

– M

72′ City win a corner

The home side have sprung to life and immediately are on the counter, trying to equalise.

Hannah Wilkinson, who’s not done heaps this half, is suddenly up and about, dancing through Sydney’s defenders towards the by-line before clipping a ball off Jordan Thompson for a corner.

The ball is taken short and swung back in towards Jada Whyman, who’s crowded out by a couple players, and the ball bounces off a Sydney head before she scrambles to clutch it in her gloves.

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#Sydney #claim #ALeague #Women #championship #defeat #Melbourne #City

Socceroos lose to South Korea in extra time of quarterfinal to be eliminated from Asian Cup

The Socceroos have crashed out of the Asian Cup in heartbreaking fashion, suffering a dramatic 2-1 extra-time loss to South Korea after throwing away a 1-0 lead in Qatar.

Craig Goodwin gave Australia the lead when he volleyed home in the 42nd minute in front of 39,632 fans at the Al Janoub Stadium.

Australia then spurned multiple chances to double their lead before a nightmare stint off the bench from right-back Lewis Miller, and two big moments from Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min turned the game in South Korea’s favour.

With Graham Arnold’s charges up 1-0 deep into stoppage time, Miller needlessly dived in late on South Korea’s superstar captain Son, giving away a penalty.

Hwang Hee-chan coolly slammed the spot-kick into the top corner in the seventh minute of injury time to take the game to extra-time.

In the 104th minute, Miller then brought down Hwang on the edge of the area, only for Spurs’ Son to lift a wonderful free kick into the top corner to put South Korea in front.

Australia’s hopes of a comeback were then made all but impossible minutes after the goal when they were reduced to 10 men.

Aiden O’Neill lunged in to attempt to win the ball and caught Hwang with his studs, with his initial yellow card upgraded to a straight red after a VAR referral.

South Korea comfortably saw out the game from there to send Australia packing and tee up a semi-final against Jordan, who beat Tajikistan 1-0 earlier on Friday local time.

For the Koreans, the result partly avenged their 2-1 extra-time loss to the Socceroos in the 2015 Asian Cup final in Sydney. 

Check out how the match unfolded in our live blog below.

Key events

Final thoughts

Thanks Sam. A disappointing, but not unexpected result. The Socceroos gave all that they had.

Will you be blogging the Tillies v Uzbekistan Olympic qualifier?

– Mark

Football can be a cruel game, and this is one of the cruellest Socceroos games I can remember.

They were literally a minute away from a heroic 1-0 win over South Korea, only for Lewis Miller’s panicked slide tackle in the box handing their opponents a comeback on a platter.

Hwang Hee-Chan’s penalty took the wind out of Australia’s sails, as did the straight red card to Aiden O’Neill after a dangerous tackle on Hee-Chan in the first stanza of extra-time, taking the Socceroos down to ten.

From there, the team faded and faded. Overall, South Korea were good for this win, but Australia will know that this is an enormous opportunity missed, and will linger in the heads and their hearts for a while.

South Korea now progress to the Asian Cup semi-final against Jordan, while the Socceroos will debrief and then go back to their clubs.

There will be plenty of conversation in the coming days about this game and this tournament, but all I’ll say for now is that I am really proud of how the Socceroos played tonight: they did what they do best, showing us the grit and the fight that captured the whole country in 2022.

Like then, it was a joy to bring you their journey here. I’ll be back on the ABC Sport liveblog later this month to cover the Matildas’ Olympic qualifying games against Uzbekistan, which I hope you’ll join me for.

Until then!

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Full time: Australia 1 – 2 South Korea

119′ Chance Korea!

Son Heung-min picks up the ball on half-way and just… jogs forward towards Australia’s defence, with no yellow shirts flooding back with urgency.

He has so much time to choose what to do here as three team-mates flood around. He opts left, sending a perfectly-weighted pass angled left into the box, and his team-mate rockets a shot towards the far post… only for Mat Ryan to throw two big hands at it and palm it away.

The ball rolls out to the other Korean winger, who tries to fire it over Ryan who’s still splayed out in the grass, but somehow it spins out for a goal kick.

Incredible keeping.

116′ Long bombs

Both teams are just pinging the ball over the top of each other’s defences now, hoping one of their fresh-legged forwards can speed in behind the slowing centre-backs and nick a goal.

It’s pretty rudimentary stuff, though. A ball floats in, and is headed away by a centreback. It’s hoofed up-field, only for the opposing centre-back to head it away. It’s been like this for a few minutes as both teams try to figure out what on earth else they can do.

114′ Referee error!

A lovely cross-field pass out to the left for the charging Aziz Behich sees the full-back bring it down beautifully before turning and aiming for a through-ball, but the referee whistles the game dead and points for a free kick to… Korea.

What? The referee gestures for a handball on Behich, but the replay shows the ball was nowhere near either of his arms.

That was such a shame: the Socceroos could’ve carved a rare opening with that run down the wing, but the ref has decided otherwise.

111′ Mat Ryan still flyin’

The Socceroos captain is still on his toes, even if most of his team-mates aren’t anymore.

Australia’s players are making more and more mistakes as they fatigue and lose concentration, but lucky for them Ryan is still wide-awake.

He snapped a shot out of the air a minute ago, and just came sprinting out of his box to calmly collect a through-ball with his foot before passing neatly to a team-mate.

Son Heung-min found too much space a moment later, opening up his body as a sliding Behich came across, but he hooked his shot just wide as Ryan was ready for it to come at him.

So at least we’ve got that.

108′ Behich is down

He’s run a marathon in this game, has Aziz.

Somehow he’s found himself up near Korea’s box, throwing himself around, trying anything to get a foot on the ball and send a cross in.

He tries to work with Bruno Fornaroli, but the ball just doesn’t settle. It’s hoofed into his stomach, and he tries his best to loft the deflection over the Korean defenders and towards the six-yard box, but it floats harmlessly into the goalkeeper’s hands.

Behich then leans down into the grass and clutches at his stomach. Winded, maybe? He gets up and jogs gingerly away a moment later after the Koreans had lumped the ball out so he could receive attention.

He looks cooked.

106′ Big Man Up Top

Harry Souttar is a centre-forward now.

If you were wondering what Graham Arnold’s “break glass in case of emergency” plan was.

Second half of extra time kick off!

105′ South Korea substitutions

Park Yong-Woo is replaced by Park Jin-seop.

Hwang Hee-Chan, who’s been epic in this match, comes off for Oh Hyeon-gyu.

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#Socceroos #lose #South #Korea #extra #time #quarterfinal #eliminated #Asian #Cup

Socceroos draw 1-1 with Uzbekistan to top Asian Cup group

The Socceroos have sealed top spot in their Asian Cup group but will head into the knockout stage with a dent in their confidence after a flat 1-1 draw with Uzbekistan.

Australia were already guaranteed to reach the round of 16 but needed a win or draw at Doha’s Al Janoub Stadium to finish top of Group B.

Martin Boyle’s spot-kick in the opening minute of first-half injury time, after a dubious hand-ball call on defender Odiljon Hamrobekov following a VAR review, gave Australia a much-needed lead after an uninspiring opening half.

A handful of personnel changes were made after Australia’s 1-0 win over Syria on Thursday, with Riley McGree in particular offering a point of creative difference in an otherwise stale Socceroos attack that was spear-headed by the inexperienced Kusini Yengi, who had replaced the injured Mitch Duke up front.

However, Uzbekistan grew into the match and, come the second half, took almost total control of possession and chance creation. Their effort and energy paid off when substitute Azizbek Turgunboev leapt over Aziz Behich and headed home the equaliser in the 78th minute.

It was Uzbekistan’s first goal against Australia in five meetings, also ending a run of six consecutive clean sheets for the Socceroos.

Uzbekistan finished second on five points, while Syria beat India 1-0 to finish third on four points, sealing progression as one of the best third-placed finishers while knocking out both India and China, who came third in Group A but cannot now progress.

The Socceroos will play the best third-placed team from either group C or D, and will likely be on the opposite side of the draw to tournament favourites Japan.

But there is plenty for Arnold to address, with Australia’s struggles to break down a defence, lack of creativity and a second-half fade-out among the concerns.

Harry Souttar had hearts in mouths in the ninth minute when he turned the ball over to Oston Urunov, only to recover to make the crucial tackle at the last moment.

Australia had the ball in the back of the net in the 11th minute through Kusini Yengi, but it was chalked off for an offside in the build-up.

Yengi’s best moment of the game came at the end of the first half as the striker went on a wonderful weaving run through Uzbekistan’s defence and cut the ball back for McGree, who inexplicably shot wide.

But luck was in Australia’s favour. During Yengi’s run, he attempted to get past Hamrobekov and the ball flicked off the defender’s arm, which he was using to brace his fall, then back into the striker’s path.

After a lengthy VAR review, Hamrobekov was penalised and booked and Boyle drilled the penalty into the bottom corner.

Uzbekistan’s Umar Eshmurodov headed home in the 60th minute but was offside.

It proved a warning shot.

Eighteen minutes later, Turgunboev brilliantly buried a wonderful dipping cross from Jaloliddin Masharipov to ensure Uzbekistan’s progression.

Check out how the game unfolded in our live blog below.

Key events

Final thoughts

They’d already qualified for the round of 16, but this draw against Uzbekistan means Australia have topped Group B and will play the best third-placed team from somewhere else in the tournament.

Like their first two group games, this was an awkward and rusty performance from the Socceroos. A handful of personnel changes perhaps contributed to that, though Australia’s best players was probably Riley McGree, who earned his first start of the Asian Cup.

But there’s still a question of where more goals can come from. There was a lack of creativity tonight, as there has been over the past two games, and too much sideways possession with not enough activity or improvisation through the central channels.

Graham Arnold will have to solve these problems now. There are no second-chances in knock-out football, and while Australia have done themselves a favour by topping the group and therefore facing a theoretically weaker opponent in the round of 16, they haven’t got long to figure this stuff out before they face a serious title contender.

In any case, there’s one more game on the horizon in five days’ time. And you bet I’ll be here to take you through all the action once again.

Until then, enjoy the rest of your week!

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Full-time: Australia 1 – 1 Uzbekistan

96′ Chance Australia!

A long ball from Souttar is controlled nicely by Kusini Yengi, who eases it out to Marco Tilio on the left.

The winger shimmies past two defenders and clips a cross into the six-yard box, but an Uzbekistan player beats Yengi to the header near the back post.

Help!

Someone needs to do something! …. Sam! … HELP THEM!…

– Mike

I’M TRYING TO MANIFEST THEM ANOTHER GOAL BUT I DON’T KNOW IF IT’LL WORK AHHH

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93′ Long throw

Lewis Miller’s first touch is launching a gigantic long throw into the box, which is chaotically headed out towards the D.

I’m not sure who that is running in – Tilio, maybe? – trying to use their momentum to deflect the ball off their chest and back towards the pack of players, but an Uzbekistan defender gets in the way. The ball is cleared.

92′ Australia substitutions

Jordan Bos and Nathaniel Atkinson are off.

Marco Tilio and Lewis Miller are on – the latter for his Asian Cup debut.

90′ Masharipov pulling strings

The substitute has been excellent since coming on, involved in all of Uzbekistan’s best attacks.

He’s at the heart of one again, connecting beautifully with two team-mates in a tight space as they make their way collectively towards the top left corner of Australia’s box.

His pass almost slices two Socceroos apart, but Kye Rowles flies in to the rescue and hoofs the ball upfield.

90′ Seven minutes of added time

Thanks for reading, Phil!

Thanks for this coverage!

– Phil J

88′ Atkinson is down

The right-back tried a long cross-field switch but totally shanked it and it rolled out for a throw-in near the half-way line.

The defender falls into the grass with his legs stretched out in front of him. It looks like cramp. Yep – an Uzbek player comes along and stretches out his calf for him. He’s up a minute later. He’ll have to keep pushing.

86′ Behich gets forward

Jordan Bos and Aziz Behich have been more involved towards the back-end of this half, with the two trying to muscle and race their way down the left wing.

Behich’s endurance has been particularly impressive given his age and the fact he’s the only defender aside from Harry Souttar to have played every minute of this tournament so far.

He gets in behind Uzbekistan’s three defenders here thanks to a cheeky backwards pass by Bos, but his cross is a tired one and sails all the way across the field for a throw-in.

82′ Uzbekistan substitution

The substitute has to be substituted as Igor Sergeev is carried off the field with that calf problem.

He’s replaced by Jamshid Iskanderov.

82′ Australia double change

The brilliant Riley McGree is replaced by Bruno Fornaroli.

Keanu Baccus is off, too, in place of Aiden O’Neill.

81′ Play paused

Some cheeky footwork by Jordan Bos to nip around Uzbekistan’s substitute Igor Sergeev sees the blue-shirted defender reach down to his calf as he tumbled into the grass.

The Socceroos could have kept charging forward there, but the referee whistles play dead as the physios run onto the field. The stretcher is out, too. It looks like the sub may have popped a calf. Unlucky.

78′ GOAL UZBEKISTAN!

Just as I say that – Uzbekistan have equalised!

Australia’s record run of clean sheets and minutes without conceding comes to an end as the substitute Azizbek Turgunboev rises above Aziz Behich to head home a gorgeous dropping cross from Masharipov on the left wing.

1-1!

Elsewhere…

Syria have taken a 1-0 lead over India, which takes them just below Uzbekistan on goal difference in Group B.

If Syria score twice more, and the current score in our game stays at 1-0 (or Australia score another), Syria could leap-frog Uzbekistan into second.

How good is tournament football!

73′ Uzbekistan keep trying

A very neat series of zig-zag passes by Uzbekistan down the left side sees them slice smoothly through the swarming Socceroos, with Masharipov on the ball near the top corner of the box.

His final pass undoes all that good build-up play, though, as he sends the ball through two yellow shirts where he thought a team-mate would be ghosting in behind but finds green grass instead.

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#Socceroos #draw #Uzbekistan #top #Asian #Cup #group

Inexperienced Matildas fall to Canada 5-0 in opening friendly

The Matildas have recorded their heaviest defeat in 17 months, with an inexperienced line-up thrashed 5-0 by Canada.

Nichelle Prince scored a first-half brace to send Canada on its way, with Cloé Lacasse, Simi Awujo and Adriana Leon completing the rout inside 62 minutes on Saturday AEDT.

It was the Matildas’ biggest defeat and poorest performance since a similarly inexperienced line-up posted a 7-0 humiliation to Spain in 2022.

Coach Tony Gustavsson had promised an experimental squad and no players from the 4-0 Women’s World Cup win over Canada were named in the starting line-up.

Sam Kerr and Mackenzie Arnold were out injured, while Caitlin Foord, Steph Catley, Mary Fowler and Kyra Cooney-Cross were among those benched amid heavy workloads at club level.

The starting line-up in Langford had a combined 429 caps, with 281 of those between Clare Polkinghorne and Tameka Yallop.

Charlize Rule and Sarah Hunter debuted at right-back and holding midfield and were among six players with fewer than 20 caps.

On a sodden artificial pitch at Starlight Stadium, the disjointed Matildas struggled to get to grips with the surface, or a brilliant Canada.

The Matildas were overrun in midfield and had no first-half shots to Canada’s 13 and it took just 10 minutes for the hosts to take the lead.

A heavy back-pass from Rule sold Polkinghorne into trouble and, as the centre-back got the ball caught under her feet, Prince pounced.

The striker pinched the ball away and coolly finished into the bottom corner.

Teagan Micah made three brilliant saves, denying Leon in the 24th and 31st minutes and Vanessa Gilles in the 27th.

But in the 43rd minute, Ashley Lawrence burst down the right and cut back to Prince, whose first-time shot beat a disappointed Micah at the near post.

Four minutes into the second half, the defending Olympic champions all but sealed victory when Hunter dawdled on the ball and Lacasse pinched it off her, before bursting to score.

In the 55th minute, Rule’s clearing header fell to Awujo, who had time to take a touch and fire home from distance.

Seven minutes later, Leon completed the rout when she drifted unmarked between a scattered defence to score.

Gustavsson turned to more experience in Fowler, Cooney-Cross, Katrina Gorry and Alanna Kennedy for the final half-hour.

The Matildas had their first shot through Fowler in the 74th minute, with Kailen Sheridan making a comfortable save.

In her second-last match, retiring Canada great Christine Sinclair entered the fray in the 62nd minute.

The second friendly is in Vancouver on Wednesday afternoon AEDT.

AAP

Look back at how the action unfolded in our blog.

Key events

Final thoughts

Football is a cycle, and just as we saw the Matildas go through some growing pains in their early days under Tony Gustavsson, this was another moment in which we were reminded of what the next generation of players coming through the ranks looks like.

Commentator Andy Harper isn’t as forgiving of this result, though, the biggest loss Australia have copped since that 7-0 drubbing at the hands of Spain last year.

But just like that game, this was an experimental team: Five players with 15 or fewer caps, and with a number of key senior players benched until the hour mark.

“When you make bulk changes, bulk experiments, with so many young debutants, it makes it really difficult for them to shine,” Amy Chapman says on the broadcast.

She reckons a better balance needed to be struck by drip-feeding young players into the senior starting side, citing Kyra Cooney-Cross’s partnership with Katrina Gorry on the field as a big reason why she’s come such a long way so quickly. Maybe we’ll see that in the next game on Tuesday.

That’s not to say Canada weren’t excellent. They were a team who have clearly played a lot of football together, and who will be thrilled to put five past the team that defeated them at the World Cup six months ago.

The field itself was tough; a slick artificial surface in the frosty rain made it really difficult for both sides, and you could see the Matildas’ confidence wane as the game wore on.

They registered just two shots all game — both coming through Mary Fowler when she came on — which, you’d hope, will be a focus for the side in their final match of the year next week.

All in all, given the gulf in experience and quality between the two sides, it’s perhaps no surprise that it ended the way it did.

How they bounce back and what changes they make before the rematch on Tuesday will determine whether the Matildas can finish their remarkable 2023 with a bang or a whimper.

Until then, thanks for joining me. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Full-time: Canada 5 – 0 Australia

What’s next?

Is there much to be gained by serving up another experimental line up on Wednesday Sam? Surely we field our strongest line up to see if we can spoil the Christine Sinclair farewell party. A big crowd deserves a competitive game.

– stumcin

It’s a good question. I think it depends on a few things: 1) how the younger players pull up after this game, 2) how the more experienced players are feeling, and 3) what Tony Gustavsson wants to work on.

I can see a situation where there’s a combination of the “two” teams we saw tonight. Where, say, a Sarah Hunter plays alongside a Katrina Gorry, or a Remy Siemsen starts up front alongside a Hayley Raso or Mary Fowler.

Seeing how some of the individuals slot into the regular starting team would be the way I approach it, personally. But I’m not Tony. So we’ll have to wait and see.

90′ 2 minutes of added time

89′ The game is winding down now

Both teams have mostly cancelled each other out in the last 15 minutes. In terms of the scoreline, it’s well out of sight, and you feel that the substitutions Gustavsson made were partly made to save the confidence of the younger players. Those on the field now didn’t really need minutes, and they’re not playing with the kind of hunger that they may have had the scores been a little closer. That’s OK though. So long as nobody gets injured, that’s what matters.

84′ Canada try the counterattack

Christine Sinclair picks up the ball in midfield and turns before charging forward after Australia’s midfielders over-committed.

Young winger Bianca St. George is tearing down the right wing, and is spotted by Sinc, who delivers a delightful outside-of-the-foot through-ball into her teammate’s path.

She tears into the box, but Alanna Kennedy is in lockstep with her. The towering centre-back throws herself across the grass as she anticipates the cross, but St. Georges loses control of the ball and it trickles out for a goal kick.

80′ Canada 5 – 0 Australia

The Matildas have looked much more composed since those substitutions were made just after the hour, but Canada aren’t letting them back into the game.

While they’re not charging forward with quite the same energy or savagery as they did early on, they still don’t look super fazed by Australia’s fresh bodies, passing the ball calmly around the back and out onto the wings before recycling it back again.

The Matildas aren’t giving up – Mary Fowler had another penalty-box entry about a minute ago – but this seems to mostly be about damage control now.

77′ Tekkers Buchanan

The Chelsea centre-back looks to be at sea, on the ball with her back to goal as Amy Sayer pressures her from behind, but the veteran does a couple of lovely step-overs and wiggles away from the young Matilda, taking on three other Aussies and jinking a lovely pass through them all.

They’re just toying with us now …

76′ Substitution Australia

Hayley Raso comes on in place of Tameka Yallop.

73′ And just as I say that!

Mary Fowler receives an incisive pass from the right wing, turning into the D at the top of the box and rocketing her foot through the rubber.

It’s almost too straight a shot, though, and it slams right into the chest of goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan for her first save of the night.

That’s something, I guess…

71′ Canada 5 – 0 Australia

With 20 minutes left, the Matildas have a mountain to climb.

They’re not going to get back into this game, you’d think, but a start would be actually having some shots at goal.

I don’t remember the last time Australia went for so long in a game without registering a single shot.

Their possession has improved since the substitutions were made, but with Mary Fowler the only recognised senior attacker on the field – with Emily Van Egmond and Tameka Yallop supporting her – you wonder whether they’ll get close enough to register even one.

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