Heartbreak For Matildas With Last Minute Loss In Opening World Cup Match
The Matildas gave up a 1-0 lead to go down to Italy in their opening match of the World Cup.
The old cliche says football is a game of two halves. And that is exactly what happened to the Matildas in their first match at Stade du Hainaut in Valenciennes on Saturday.
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Australia named an unchanged lineup from their 3-0 loss to the Netherlands in last week's friendly, with captain Sam Kerr leading from the front.
The Aussies started the match positively, bringing the ball forward with pace and showing attacking intent from the outset.
Matildas had the first chance of the match, with a wonderful ball in to the box from Steph Catley on to the head of Kerr, but the captain couldn't keep it down and watched it soar just over the crossbar.
Despite having much of the ball in the opening minutes the Australians were caught napping at the back, leaving Italy's Ilaria Mauro with a free run on goal. Mauro couldn't get hold of the shot and Lydia Williams' first save of the game was an easy one.
Things nearly took an early turn for the worst from the Australians in the eighth minute, when the high line they were playing left them vulnerable at the back again.
Barbara Bonansea, with a magnificent run behind the defence, put the ball in the back of the net, but while the Italians were celebrating, the line umpire put up her flag for offside.
A lengthy VAR check confirmed the offside ruling.
Australia composed themselves after the scare and troubled Italy's defence a number of times.
Their hard work was rewarded in the 21st minute, with a penalty given to the Aussies after Sara Gama clearly pushed Kerr in the back.
Kerr's spot kick was not hit with much conviction, easily saved by Laura Giuliani, but the follow up was perfect and Kerr scored the Matildas' first goal of the campaign.
Clearly rattled by the penalty, the Italians were troubled by a persistent attack from the Australians. A chip into the box by Emily van Egmond came off the crossbar and Kerr tried to gift her teamates a goal only for Gama to get in the way.
Williams pulled off a stunning save in the 30th literally putting her body on the line.
The Italians would have been the most relieved of the two teams to hit the sheds at half time and regroup.
And regroup they did.
We said football is a game of two halves, and Italy came out firing in the second.
Bonansea made up for her earlier offside and pounced on an Australian defensive error by Clare Polkinghorne.
Dancing around yellow shirts, Bonansea made no mistake and drew the Italians level in the 56th minute.
Things turned bruising for the Matildas, with the Italians turning up the physicality with their tackles.
A VAR check on a potential handball in the box had the Australians nervous after the hour mark, but was eventually cleared.
While the Australians had most of the ball in the first half, it was all Italy in the second, with wave after wave of attack.
The offside flag was Australia's friend once again late in the game, when Daniela Sabatino thought she's put Italy ahead.
The match became an untidy affair, with tempers visibly fraying on both sides.
The Aussies had a few late chances but couldn't capitalise and were punished with a last minute goal from the Italians.
Bonansea was the goalscorer again, breaking Australian hearts with her 95th minute winner to hand Italy all three points.
The Matildas head to Stade de la Mosson in Montpellier to play Brazil on Thursday (local time).
While they were fast and furious in attack, their defensive woes continue and will need improving against the fast South American football played by the Brazilians.