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Matildas bow out after going down to Ghana

Courtesy FIFA.com: Africa’s reigning Women’s Footballer of the Year, Alberta Sackey, showed all of her class in claiming a brace to hand the Black Queens of Ghana their first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup victory – a 2-1 triumph over Australia at the first USA 2003 match at Portland’s PGE Park.

Heather Garriock pulled a second half goal back for the Matildas, but it was not enough for Oceania’s respresentatives, who are left bottom of Group D with just a single point. Ghana head home as well, finishing third, but the sweet taste of their first finals victory may sustain them on their way back to Africa.

With Sackey back in the side after failing to start against Russia, the Ghanaians hit out the brighter of the two right from the start. But it was the Matildas who got the first real scoring chance when Garriock fired an 18-yard snapshot straight into Memunatu Sulemana’s midsection (3′).

The Africans though, continued to press in search of their first goal at these finals. Patience Sackey fired one just over at the back post on the end of a well-flighted corner (8′).

Mavis Dgajmah had a great chance to get the Ghanaians on the board when she ran on to a fine through ball from Patience Sackey. As she raced in one-on-one with goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri, she slammed the ball off the crossbar (15′). And just seconds later, Patience Sackey fired a left-footed shot that also splattered off the woodwork after beating the Australian keeper (16′).

While the Black Queens continued to throw everything forward, playing their best football of USA 2003, the Matildas were looking to hit out on the counter. Kelly Golebiowski’s long ball from midfield picked out Danielle Small, who fired right at Sulemana (28′).

Just one minute later, Ghana charged up field and forced Barbieri into two fine saves in quick succession . A fine Alberta Sackey shot from long range was pushed over (29′) and then from the resulting corner she did well to hold on to Sackey’s driving header (30′).

Alberta Sackey finally found the back of the net after taking the ball off of substitute Bryony Duus. Racing forward, she fired a 23-yard cracker past Barbieri to the top corner (1-0, 34′).

And the striker grabbed one more after firing a close-range shot straight at Barbieri. The brave Australian keeper got down well to save, but spilled the ball straight back to the African Player of the Year, who made no mistake the second time around to close out the first half scoring (2-0, 39′).

The Matildas, knowing they would need a win for survival, threw everything into a frenzied attack. Golebiowski fired a shot from 23 yards early, but it sailed harmlessly over Sulemana’s goal (48′).

But Garriock raced through to grab her second goal of the finals when Golebiowski picked her out at the far post after a bit of fine individual skill. After a beautiful diagonal ball, the striker smacked the ball on the first touch low and to the far post. Poor Sulemana could do nothing but watch (2-1, 61′).

Duus tried a hopeful shot from way out to get the Matildas even and make up for her earlier miscue. But Sulemana did well to smother the shot and keep the Africans on target for their first finals win (71′).

Alberta Sackey continued to weave her magic as the half wore on. After a long, mazy run out of midfield, the African fired a wicked shot from 22 yards. But Barbieri did well to grab it at the second attempt (76′).

After a few more chances for Ghana, Australia’s Golebiowski missed out on a clear opportunity in the dying moments. As the ball slipped past the far post, the Australians must have seen their quarter-final hopes fade into nothing (91′).

And, in the end, the scoreline stood and both sides took their final bows at USA 2003 — but only Ghana had a smile on their faces.

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