Sam Kerr’s brilliance propelled her Matildas to a memorable and much-deserved 2-0 victory over high-flying England, a huge boost to their World Cup dreams.
The Australian captain once again demonstrated why she is the deadliest striker in the women’s game at Brentford’s Gtech Community Stadium on Tuesday. The Australian captain pounced on a first-half error by England captain Leah Williamson to put the Matildas ahead.
She then turned after the break, her surefire cross headed home by Charlotte Grant, via a deflection from the hapless Williamson, to give the European champions their first loss in 31 games.
It was an extraordinary result, achieved against all odds by an injury-stricken team on a miserable, drenched night in London, perfectly reflecting coach Tony Gustavsson’s belief that the Matildas have no one to fear at their home World Cup in July. .
Kerr showed why she is one of the world’s biggest stars as she scored the Aussies’ first goal and helped set up the second with an accurate cross
Charlotte Grant (left) celebrates victory with her teammates after heading home the Aussies’ second goal, a huge boost to their World Cup dreams
What an overseas broadcast this was – and it definitely wasn’t a fluke.
From the start, facing an overwhelmingly partisan full house of 14,500, Kerr’s team was just as aggressive, in-your-face, and committed as Gustavsson had promised.
With their punch and ingenuity on the counterattack, they consistently discredited a team that had not lost a game in two years and had just won the Finalissima against South American champions Brazil.
Australia could have won even more convincingly as England’s rear was stretched again and again by their sharpness on the counter-attack, with substitute Cortnee Vine, who had come on for the injured Tameka Yallop in the first half, excelling.
Kerr was magnificent, leading from the front and putting an end to concerns about her fitness to meet their challenge.
The Chelsea ace was declared fit to take the lead in a starting line-up that saw two changes from the team who were beaten 1-0 by Scotland on Friday.
There were concerns about Kerr’s fitness before the game, but she and her teammates were never intimidated by the England home crowd – or the Lionesses’ World No. 4 rankings
The Matildas (pictured celebrating Grant’s goal) were excellent on defense
Kerr, rested before the Scotland match with Gustavsson refusing to say if she suffered an injury, replaced Larissa Crummer up front and the difference for Australia was like night and day.
As the rain came down, the Matildas began, as Gustavsson suggested they would, without looking in any way overwhelmed.
Hayley Raso provided the early spur with a pair of quick runs and a blocked shot as the Australians more than matched the European champions in physicality.
But as the match progressed, England looked to be finding more and more rhythm, with Georgia Stanway causing problems for Charlotte Grant down the right flank and Alessia Russo volleying wide at a cross from Chloe Kelly.
But out of the blue, Kerr struck in typically predatory fashion. She had barely sniffed for the first 32 minutes, but when Clare Hunt fired a long ball forward, she was hawking her opponent Williamson, shadowing her and expecting her to try and nod the ball back to her keeper. Mary Earps.
Australia’s Ellie Carpenter clashes with Chloe Kelly. England easily won the possession battle, but could not match the Matildas’ finishing
The main injury concern during the match is Tameka Yallop (pictured), who had to come off after being injured during a challenge with Kelly
She did just that, but too weakly and Kerr expertly diverted it over the advancing keeper the first time for the 63rd goal of her storied international career.
England were stunned, but although they doubled their pressure, Australia’s back four held firm until the break, despite the disheartening sight of a limping Yallop being helped off the field after coming off worse in a challenge with Kelly.
Australia could have taken a second with a couple of breaks early in the second half, which ended with Kerr missing two chances she would normally gobble up.
England, enjoying the lion’s share of possession, only created one truly blatant chance that substitute Rachel Daley headed wide, but Clare Polkinghorne and Hunt, absolute rocks in central defence, made sure there was no passage for the deflated home attack.