England 1 – Australia 1
I am starting to write this about one minute after the end of the game and I can’t stop giggling. That is probably amongst the most undeserved results that I’ve seen in football.
Not that I’m complaining – and, to be fair, there were lots of positives to come out of this game for Australia. We started the game much like we played against France. We were unable to string passes together and seemed deeply out of sorts in the midfield. This time, though, we managed to play our way into some form and had a few good sustained periods in attack.
Lisa de Vanna played like a woman on a mission, particularly in the early stages of the first half. I also thought that Logarzo had a very good game starting in attack and moving to the midfield in the second half. 16 year old Amy Sayer (fuck me, right, 16) started today and had some impressive touches, including a run that beat the entire midfield before laying it off to attack.
The reality is that we were completely outplayed for most of the game. While the focus has been on us missing a key player like Sam Kerr, in reality the biggest difference to our squad is missing Gorry in midfield. Without her running the show as anchor we really struggle to keep our shape. While Sayer was great, she didn’t perform her defensive duties as she should (again, 16, I’m not being too critical) and Kellond Knight seemed out of sorts in her hundredth game.
We miss Kennedy in the back too. Like the game against France we had somewhat of a makeshift back line, this time with Caitlin Foord at left back. She’s not unfamiliar with playing at full back – there was a time when baby faced Foord played opposite Marta in her prime and more than matched her – but these days she is more of a striker and it showed. It wasn’t just her skills in defence but her communication with the back line and goalkeeper was off leaving loads of room for Lucy Bronze, Fran Kirby and co to exploit.
Ellie Carpenter had a great game. I really, really rate her. Not just because she’s a Thornies player or that she has the best eyebrows in football, but she’s come leaps and bounds in the last 12 months. Her defensive game remains solid but it’s in attack that she shines.
So – for the game itself…
Look. When I’m awake at quarter to 5 in the morning, I want to be either really drunk, really happy or both. The Matilda’s first half did not make me happy at all.
The first 25 minutes or so in particular were woeful. We couldn’t make a pass, really. Except for one run by Sayer, we were all out at sea. A lot was made last game of Kyah Simon’s performance in midfield but I think today showed that the issues go much deeper than one player in a bad patch of form.
When England scored through Fran Kirby midway through the first half it was more than deserved. A dodgy backpass from Steph Catley left Mackenzie Arnold for dead. Macca scuffed it to Beth Mead, who coolly controlled it and crossed it to Kirby to finish.
England should have had two more goals in the first half. Firstly England were disallowed a goal after the assistant somehow flagged for offside despite them clearly being on. It was another wonderful bit of play involving Kirby and Mead, the two standouts for me today. Two minutes or so later Foord absolutely hacked down Mead in the box, which the referee somehow waved away. England and Phil Neville went into half time salty that they were not 3-0 up.
Despite an improved second half performance from Australia it really did seem inevitable that England would score another or two and seal the victory. When another clear looking penalty was denied in the 80thminute for England, I maybe started to believe we could get something out of the game.
Enter a blistering run started and finished by Ellie Carpenter that leads to a KK corner. The corner managed to land perfectly on Polkinghorne’s head who slotted it past the England keeper Mary Earps (who’d had a great game to be fair) to equalise. Captain KK had come up the goods.
The English crowd was irate. Sokkah Twitter was beside itself laughing. What a wonderful game football is.
There were definite improvements from the France game and I find myself much more optimistic for the future after that second half. I must confess, thoughts of despair for the World Cup did creep into my mind, but at least part of that must have been due to coffee-less sleep deprivation.
For their part, England were missing some key players too and will no doubt leave that game feeling a) completely and utterly robbed and b) optimistic.
Football might be coming home after all, just a year later. If only they can keep the referees away and the ball off Polks’ head.
Featured image from Matildas Twitter page.
By Taryn Heddo