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Ferns draw with Australia

The Ferns, who lost 2-0 to the Matildas on Saturday in Ballarat, delivered a much-improved effort and dominated the match for long periods.
They probably should have won for the first time in the past 27 encounters between the Trans-Tasman rivals.
The World No 16 took the lead in the 63rd minute thanks to a superb strike from Katie Bowen from outside the area.
After clever build-up work from substitute Sarah Gregorious, Bowen did not hesitate with her left foot strike that easily beat the keeper.
It was Bowen’s first international goal in her 37th appearance nad and she couldn’t hide her delight.
“It was an absolutely amazing feeling. As a forward it’s my job to be in those kind of positions to convert for the team so it was awesome.” she said.
“Sarah Gregorious made an absolutely beautiful run and when the ball popped out for me I had one thought on my mind and that was to shoot.
“Im really stoked with the finish. It was a surreal moment and a special one.”
New Zealand taking the lead kick-started the Matildas into life and they responded when Lisa De Vanna hit a fine shot across the face of goal to beat Kiwi keeper Erin Nayler in the 72nd minute.
It was somewhat against the run of play as the Ferns had dominated the possession and shots on goal for long periods.
The Ferns could easily point to the fact that in the 62nd minute they should have been awarded a penalty when a strike from Betsy Hassett hit a Matildas hand inside the box but it was waved away by the referee.
The Matildas had the best of the chances in the final 20 minutes but were unable to convert.
Nayler, who had a superb night in goal to thwart a number of goal scoring chances, stopped a Katrina Gorry shot from close range.
Striker Michelle Heyman put a shot in the back of the net moments later but she was rightfully judged to be offside.
But for the majority of the match it was New Zealand who looked like the World No 5 as their hopes of contending for a medal at the Rio Olympics in August took a huge boost from a gutsy performance.
Australia, who won the opening game at Ballarat thanks to a brace from Caitlin Foord, were not the same outfit as the Kiwis black wall of defence pressed them high up the pitch and into a number of errors.
The best chance of the opening 45 minutes came in the 36th minute when skipper Abby Erceg delivered a delightful flick on for striker Amber Hearn to have an open look at goal but she couldn’t get a touch.
The Ferns kept coming and midfielder Annalie Longo, who was a constant threat all night on her searching runs, found Hannah Wilkinson in space but the striker could not beat the keeper.
The visitors went into the sheds knowing that they had the better of the first half but had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.
Coach Tony Readings made two changes at half-time bringing on super substitutes Betsy Hassett and Sarah Gregorious. Both made an immediate impact in the middle third and the Ferns intensity went up a level.
A notable mention should be made of Ria Percival who was everywhere in the Ferns defence and played a key role, alongside Meikayla Moore, in repelling the Aussies.
It looked like the New Zealanders were on the cusp of history and a famous win but the Matildas came back to level.
Bowen admitted he Ferns were disappointed with the draw.
“We are definitely happy with our improved performance from the last game but we are gutted that we tied. It’s been 22 years since we last beat the Matildas and we are always so close,” she said.
Still there was more than enough to suggest that the Football Ferns are capable of great things on the world stage and will be a team the world’s best will be wary of at the Rio Olympics.
Story courtesy of New Zealand Football

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