In front of a thrilling audience of 75,000 people in Sydney, an Australian team that was without injured sensation Sam Kerr made a victorious start to their home Women’s World Cup on Thursday with a nerve-wracking 1-0 triumph against debutants Ireland. The match was played in Australia.
Steph Catley, who was filling in as the team’s captain, coolly converted a penalty kick in the 52nd minute, which turned out to be the game’s lone goal. The action in the game really picked up in the second half.
The Matildas were off to a strong start in their quest to become the first team in history to go farther than the quarter-finals, and their victory secured three points for them in the challenging Group B.
However, they were forced to play without their all-time highest goal-scorer, Chelsea striker Kerr, who was ruled out before the game started with a calf injury and is not expected to return until at least their third game.
As a result of this setback, the captain will also be unable to play in the next match against Nigeria. Their medical staff will evaluate his condition before their last group match, which will be played against the Olympic champions from Canada.
Despite the fact that she was not there, the players were welcomed with thunderous shouts in a pulsating Stadium Australia. The audience of 75,784 was a record for a women’s game in Australia, and a good number of them were Irish supporters cheering loudly.
It was a greater turnout than the 50,629 people who came to see the Matildas play France in a friendly in Melbourne last week, which the home team won 1-0.
This victory came on the heels of previous victories against Spain and the defending champions of Europe, England, which led many people to see Australia as one of the frontrunners for the championship.
In lieu of Kerr in the starting lineup was Manchester City’s Mary Fowler, who ultimately scored the game-winning goal against France. Arsenal’s Catley was given the responsibility of captaining the team.
After a slow start, they finally had a chance to score in the 16th minute, but Clare Hunt’s header from Kyra Cooney-Cross’ corner was too errant, and the ball went out of play.
By defending in depth, Ireland did a good job of tamping down Australia’s typically high-octane game, which Kerr could be seen watching uneasily from the sidelines.
Caitlin Foord’s left-foot drive struck the side netting, while Hayley Raso came close to scoring with a header that scraped the crossbar. Hayley Raso had a nice chance.
Some rough challenges were made by both teams, and Ireland’s Denise O’Sullivan was eventually shown a yellow card for her part in them. O’Sullivan was also the victim of a rough tackle in a match against Colombia that was called off due to injury the previous week, and she was sent to the hospital after that match.
Raso was taken down in the penalty area by Marissa Sheva seven minutes into the second half, which was the moment when the breakthrough occurred.
Catley took advantage of the absence of Kerr to step up and drill her penalty kick into the bottom left corner, sending the fans into a frenzy and making the relief real.
It pumped some life into the game, and shortly after that, Fowler had a chance to make it 2-0, but her attempt went far over the bar.
Ireland refused to give up and continued to unleash waves of assaults in a desperate attempt to tie the game. However, the host team continued to throw people behind the ball and cling on to secure a win that was far from convincing.