Here we are again. Last game of the group and against old friends China. Algarve Cup is an odd beast with the way finals play out. So as the commentator repeatedly stated throughout the game, we need four goals to make the finals. I did end up muting the dear old commentator because he kept saying four goals like it was impossible and as if we didn’t have Sam F***ing Kerr.
For this game against China, Staj made wholesale changes to the Aussie starting lineup. Whilst I’ve been singing the praises of Claire Polkinghorne, she was benched allowing Laura Alleway to have a jersey, which I am stoked about. Crummer also got a start, pushing Lorgazo to midfield and Elise Kellond-Knight to left back.
With the hope of a better ref, we had the kick off. (Only slightly better reffing. Slight improvements matter yeah?). Straight up China brought a high press to this game. Playing against a high pressing team can work to our advantage, if we can break quickly with numbers and catch them out defensively. Unfortunately China were a well organised outfit and found themselves with numbers behind the ball the moment they lost it.
Both teams from the start really looked to attack, moving the ball quickly to their respective forward lines. This style is somewhat entertaining to watch, probably more so as a neutral. But it also hurts seeing us not play out with our midfield, using players like Katrina Gorry and Emily Van Egmond to really create something special.That’s ok, this is only a friendly tournament. We will build from here, with players coming back from injury likely to help us too.
There were so many half chances for both teams. Neither team could really work that killer final pass to really cause havoc. Still both teams had opportunities forcing the opposition goalkeeper into some stunning saves.
Both teams could have gone into halftime with a goal.
Again we should be feeling robbed by these referees and their calls. Solid all game but the moment it really mattered the centre ref floundered. Towards the end of the first half, Kellond-Knight hit a free kick in on goal, where the Chinese goalkeeper, Wang Fei, first got hands on it, however with only half a hand on the ball Kerr got in to nudge it into the goal. But no, refs are always raining on our parade (sorry refs, I do ordinarily really love you guys), and whistles for a freekick. Once again. We were robbed of a goal.
Still spewing about referee injustices, China get a move on. They created their best chance shortly afterwards after winning the ball from a breakdown of the Matildas midfield. With too many players committed forward, China got rockets on their feet and had us on the break. Fortunately we defended against it, but gee, China should have done better and we should have been a goal down.
Half Time turns in at nil – nil.
This half was one of two defensive flanks. On the one side was Kellond-Knight. Super solid. Yes should be playing defensive midfield, and with Cately sometime coming back, that will likely happen. But left side solid yeah? Well the right side. Gave me anxiety, not just this half, but all game. Young Ellie Carpenter just couldn’t deal with Wang Shanshan. Wang had her number the whole night. Either having all the space when Carpenter didn’t get back in time, or pulling her out wide with no support. This tournament has been good game time for Carpenter, but I don’t think she is the answer to our right back woes. My vote? Test out Caitlin Cooper who slayed at right back for Sydney FC this year. Otherwise Twitter apparently leans towards using Caitlin Foord there. Both would be good options right now.
Time for the second half and stop ranting about defence hey.
Still at nil all, I began getting flashbacks to our last game against Portugal. Not at the point of actually going back to bed, but totally at the point of starting to get my grumpy tweets on. Chloe Logarzo had my back though. With Alana Kennedy chipping a funny ball into the penalty box, Logarzo rose up and nodded it to chip the keeper. It was lush. The angles of both the ball was so pretty. We were up one nil. Finally a goal.
We were lucky though. A few times China just lacked that final touch, breaking down so many otherwise wonderful opportunities for the Chinese to go ahead. Further our defence (apart from right back, sorry Carpenter) looked solid. Kennedy was everywhere. From the desperate lunging tackle, to bringing the ball out with elegance and grace she somehow unnaturally possesses as a defender. Kennedy and Mackenzie Arnold, whose voice you could hear continually guiding our defence and who pulled out some absolute stunning saves, were our players of the match. Hands down.
With the game winding down, China continued to commit numbers forward. They had chances, but thanks to some heavy touches and Arnold’s safe hands, we were safe. Further, with China searching for an equaliser, we finally got an opportunity in extra time to have a chance without two lines of Chinese defence behind the ball. Who else than to have that chance? Why, none other than the mighty, goal scoring machine, Kerr. (See commentator, we have Sam F***ing Kerr).
Two – Nil.
Not the best performance, but not our worst. With injuries to some key players, others out of position or inexperienced and out of form players getting time on the field, this has been a good lead up tournament for the real deal of the Asian Cup next month. We still need to get out midfield kicking though. But the most exciting things of the night? The last five or ten minutes we got to see our midfield with youngsters Alex Chidiac in attacking midfield, and Rachel Lowe in defensive midfield. Both players were wonderful to watch. Add onto that Emily Condon, who looked lively in her quick spell against Portugal, our future is looking bright guys. Heck if our midfield don’t manage to find the spark they’ve been missing all tournament, my vote is throw these guys on the field to find it.
Peace out until Thursday morning, where we have a bronze medal (re-)match with Portugal. May your 2am wake up call be nice to you, and there be better referees.