Sleepy Observations – Take Two Against Portugal

As the game finished at 4am, my beloved Matildas losing their first game in a long time and the world still silent, full of suspense, my version of the beginning of a bedtime story going awry was playing out. Inevitably, a rematch against tournament hosts Portugal was always going to be difficult. It was. No one likes to read match reports, with a play by play of how their team lost. Apparently I don’t like to write them either, especially with the little sleep that goes hand in hand with 2am games. So instead here is a brief account of what happened, where I will focus only briefly on what happened in the game instead considering the good and bad of this morning for the Matildas.

If you want to see rotation in your side during a friendly tournament, look no further. Australia show you exactly how to do it. Despite a third place medal on the line, wholesale changes were made. I would argue no more than four (at most five) of the eleven would be considered starters with a fully fit squad. But roll with the punches. This tournament has provided plenty of opportunities for fresh line ups and new ideas, including a crazy foray of Larissa Crummer at left back, which honestly wasn’t the worst part of our defence today so I wouldn’t be upset if Crummer gets another chance there in the friendly against Thailand this month.

Thirty minutes into the game, literally all my notes were saying both teams looked composed, but neither team really producing much. The game was bogged down in the midfield, with both sides unable to really breakdown their opponent. A handful of half chances were had for both teams, however nothing really to get me jumping off my bed in excitement before 2.30am. Normally those chances for Australia were the result of Elise Kellond-Knight’s free kicks. I’m prepared to call her the free kick queen now. Throughout this Cup, Kellond-Knight’s free kicks were stunning, the sort of stuff I use to dream up and pretend to hit in the backyard as a kid (and still try now unsuccessfully at training).

Unfortunately, right when I thought our defence were looking solid and prepared for what Portugal were bringing, I was proved wrong. A comedy of errors, a poor back pass in rainy conditions, plus the pressure of Nadia Fillipa Gomes Coelho (Gomes) gave us the first goal of the game. This wasn’t the last time Gomes pressured our defence to force an error. Continually well into the second half, Australia really struggled to deal with the high press on our defenders. The rain didn’t help us any, and we were really missing Alana Kennedy’s composure on the ball, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for this goal as between Caitlin Cooper and Claire Polkinghorne there is more than enough experience in that back line.

Our chances coming from Kellond-Knight finally paid on the death of the half. I was half asleep, and not expecting it, so my description of it is a bit fuzzy. But all you need to know is there is YouTube, and the free kick was dangerous allowing Caitlin Cooper to put a head on it to tie up the game.

 

Half Time. 1 – 1. Somehow.

At half time all I could think of was I wasn’t built for multi-tasking at 2 something in the morning. Watching the game, taking notes on the game, tweeting about the game and having a sleepy conversation with a friend over messenger leads to one hell of a confused way to bring in the day. I was also relieved that Australia managed to tie up the game before the end of the half.

 

Second Half

Portugal came out knowing all they needed to do is press our defenders and they would have their chance again. To add to this, they continued to have numbers behind the ball whenever they lost it. Frustrating yeah? Unfortunately their chances came. With an early warning call, where an opportunity of an open net was somehow not enough for Portugal to pull ahead after the ball trickled just wide of the post, we still lived dangerously at the back.

So the inevitable happened. GOAL PORTUGAL. I could never begrudge a team a good goal. This was a good goal by Vanessa Malho. After Portugal won the ball, they quickly moved it around the box for Malho to get a shot off at the top of the box, to burry it stunningly low and hard in the bottom corner. Yes Australia’s marking was poor, no way should Malho have had enough space to pull that out. But still excellent strike. Matildas behind 2-1.

Even though the commentator might have been partly right, he was salty and shouldn’t be listened to. Continually he went by saying this game was “well below the standards of the Matildas”. Mate I challenge you to find any team that has this many injuries, somehow still have enough depth to more or less put out a second string line up and still play the standard of a FIFA ranked number four team. I’ll wait.

Not only did I have the dilemma of the Matildas being behind in this match, I had two others. One was whether to brush my teeth at the 60 minute mark. My laziness and reasoning of needing to rebrush them mere hours later beat out the disgusting morning breath I could taste. The second had more potential to be problematic. I take my notes on my iphone right, like any 20-something year old would. Well, intending to select “select” and over-right one word, I pressed “select all” with my sleepy brain not computing what happened until two words into being rid of the rest of my notes. After initial panic, my cloudy brain thought to shake my phone to see if I could undo my first real note-taking blogging nightmare. It worked. Crisis averted.

Back to the show. Portugal had another couple chances. The introduction of Jessica Silva for the Portuguese caused havoc. The fresh legs continued to press our defenders resulting in a couple chances, where at least one should have guaranteed the game for the home side.

By the end of the game, substitutions were made, our team was looking like one of our stronger starting elevens. The result was our intensity started to lift, and we were starting to really produce a couple of opportunities. Shout out to Ana Borges, the Portuguese defender who I swear stopped so many of our chances from developing into something threatening.

Soon it became apparent we just weren’t destined to get that bronze medal. On the 85th minute we got a penalty. Sam Kerr had received a ball over the top of the defence and a penalty was quickly called by the referee when Silvia Rebelo produced a clumsy challenge on Kerr. Emily Van Egmond stepped up to the plate. For some reason when I saw her, I was thinking, “does she actually want to be taking this kick”. The answer to my question was no. The penalty kick was poor, like real poor. One that I would take, and I suck at taking penalties, just ask my dad who saw me take my last one during a game when I was 15. Easy save for Portugal’s number one, Ines Teixeira Pereira.

 

Full time. 2-1 to Portugal.

Once again pipped at the post to getting a medal. Trumps to Portugal, they had our number and were easily the more hungry of the sides, bringing the intensity required to win these types of games.

The Good?

Our fringe players got plenty of game time, especially in this game but also overall during this Cup. We finally have depth in our playing squad. Exciting times.

I’m interested to see in the Crummer experiment at left back will become something. I didn’t see any reason why it couldn’t be, she was solid even though inexperienced fouls occurred at times.

Most importantly this lose means we shake off that monkey off our backs of “the Matildas haven’t lost in X amount of games” before the Asian Cup. With World Cup qualification on the line, I would rather lose a game in a friend cup competition, than during qualifiers where it will really count. So definite good things to come into the Asian Cup next month.

The Bad?

Injuries aside, of which we seem to have plenty of players with niggling ones, this competition demonstrates a couple of problems.

Without Alana Kennedy in the starting line up, our defence weren’t near organised enough. Yeah we have problems with her in the side still, but Kennedy still proves to be the cornerstone of our defence. Without her we struggle, especially with our composure on the ball in the back.

I am unconvinced with our game plan for large parts of this tournament. Many times we neglected to use our midfield. A midfield with a mixture of Katrina Gorry, Emily Van Egmond, Elise Kellond-Knight and Tameka Butt, with other solid, solid fringe players also in, should be our greatest weapon. Especially in tight matches, our midfield should be what sets us apart and allows opportunities for creativity to create chances on goal. Instead so often we by-passed the midfield with the long ball over the top. Surely we are better than that now?

The Brilliant?

Chloe Logarzo. Had the most playing time and an absolute terrier the who time. Really cemented her claim in the starting line up with players coming back for the Asian Cup.

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