SA RELEASE: The Qantas Matildas secured a credible 1-1 draw with world powerhouse China at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in a do-or-die clash in Los Angeles.
Although the point keeps Australia in the race, the result still leaves Australia with an uphill task of qualifying for the quarter finals, and they must beat Ghana by more than one goal and rely on Russia to beat the Chinese in the final group matches on Sunday in Portland.
While it wasn’t the result Australia was looking for after its 2-1 defeat in the opening match against Russia, it will do wonders for the morale of the squad, who can look forward to the match against Ghana with a great deal of confidence.
It was a gutsy, backs-to-the-wall effort from the Qantas Matildas and China kept up constant pressure on them in the second half, but captain, Cheryl Salisbury led Australia’s defence by example, thwarting every chance China could muster. It was Australia’s first draw in World Cup action against a top-four team, and only our second point all-time in the World Cup.
Australia took the field without co-vice-captain Sacha Wainwright, out for the remainder of the tournament. Teenager Karla Reuter made her World Cup debut in a reshuffled lineup in terms of positions played. After a slow start, Australia found itself slowly gaining a little possession, but the favourites would not have expected them to take the lead in the 28th minute.
On the counterattack, Danielle Small sent through a sumptuously weighted ball and Heather Garriock finished in fantastic style low into the far corner of goal despite the challenge of both her marker and the outcoming goalkeeper. The shot itself was almost a carbon copy of that which she had scored against China in the 2000 Pacific Cup.
China then had four great chances to level, Pu Wei sending her attempt skywards from inside the 6-yard box just three minutes after Australia’s goal. Then in the 40th minute, Sun Wen was denied by a miraculous save on the goal-line from Salisbury who injured herself in the process by colliding with the post.
Both Pu and Sun then had another chance each before the half-time whistle. Whilst Australia managed to hold out until the break, it took China just a minute to equalise in the second half when a cross from Zhang Ouying was only parried by Cassandra Kell and it fell into the path of the unmarked Bai Jie whose shot evaded Salisbury’s attempt at another goal-line save.
For the remainder of the match, China kept up their search for a winner but had few creative ideas on how to break down an impervious wall of Australians, who had learnt their lesson from Russia’s late winning goal and threw their bodies on the line to preserve their point.
Salisbury was named the Bud Light Player of the Match for her courageous display. National Coach Adrian Santrac was indeed proud of the team yet aware that the result was not the desired outcome. “I have mixed feelings in a way,” he said. “I guess if you look at previous major tournaments, a draw against a top four nation is a good result. But we were looking for the win, for the three points, to ultimately set up the Ghana match to secure the quarterfinals berth. It keeps our chances alive, but our future now also lies in someone else’s hands.”
Santrac added, “We were up 1-0 at half time and felt we were very much in control in that everything China threw at us we were able to counter.
Then we had the worst possible start to the second half conceding early and China got a huge lift from that. We held our ground as well as we possibly could and in the end achieved a draw. In football, you don’t always get what you deserve but what you work for, and that was certainly the case today.”
In the earlier Group D match, Russia comfortably defeated Ghana 3-0 to assure them of a quarterfinal berth. The teams travel north to Portland tomorrow in readiness for Sunday’s last group matches.
FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP USA 2003
GROUP D second matches
Los Angeles : Thursday 25 September 2003
Result: AUSTRALIA 1 (Heather Garriock 28′)
CHINA 1 (Bai Jie 46′)
Halftime score: 1-0
Weather: Fine, 23Â°C
Pitch condition: Good, although patchy surface
Match Officials: Referee – Katriina Elovirta (FIN), Assistant
Referees – Emilia Parviainen (FIN), Andi Regan (NIR), Fourth Official – Jennifer Bennett (USA)
AUSTRALIA Lineup: Cassandra Kell (GK), Gillian Foster, Dianne Alagich, Cheryl Salisbury (capt), Rhian Davies, Kelly Golebiowski, Joanne Peters, Heather Garriock, Karla Reuter, Tal Karp, Danielle Small. Unused Substitutes: Bryony Duus, April Mann, Melissa Barbieri (GK), Pamela Grant, Taryn Rockall, Amy Beattie (GK), Amy Wilson, Hayley Crawford. (Sacha Wainwright – unavailable due to injury.)
Cautions: Dianne Alagich 89′, Kelly Golebiowski 91+’.
CHINA Lineup: Zhao Yan (GK), Li Jie, Fan Yunjie, Zhao Lihong (Qu Feifei 85′), Bai Jie (Teng Wei 90′), Zhang Ouying (Ren Liping 74′), Sun Wen (capt), Liu Ying, Pu Wei, Liu Yali, Wang Liping. Unused Substitutes: Han Wenxia (GK), Sun Rui, Gao Hongxia, Bi Yan, Han Duan. (Pan Lina – unavailable due to injury).
Cautions: Liu Ying 55′.