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Unlucky Matildas go down to Russia

FIFA.com – The Russians left it late to down brave Australia 1-2 on 21 September in Carson, California. After slamming a second-half penalty off the crossbar, Elena Fomina unleashed a right-footed blast in minute 89 that took a cruel deflection and nestled in the back of the net to settle the Group D clash.

On a hot evening just outside of Los Angeles, the Australians can consider themselves unlucky indeed as they played the Russians evenly for most of the match. Kelly Golebiowski gave the OCEANIA representatives the lead, but saw it disintegrate just 60 seconds later when Dianne Alagich steered the ball woefully into her own net. And the late Russian strike damned the courageous Matildas to yet another FIFA Women’s World Cup loss.

The Russians earned a 1-1 draw with Australia in a bruising Group D encounter with Australia without ever having scored a goal of their own in Carson, California on 21 September. Only 60 seconds after Kelly Golebiowski opened the scoring for the Matildas, defender Diane Alagich steered the ball woefully into her own goal. A missed penalty from Russia’s Elena Fomina in the second half had the two sides settling for a point apiece.

On a warm evening just outside of Los Angeles, the first draw of USA 2003 never truly settled into any sort of rhythm. Both sides will have to be happy with a one-point start at the finals.

Australia began brightly but without really penetrating. Joanne Peters, in particular, was showing some neat touches in the centre of the park and the Matildas looked determined to get their first victory in the competition’s history.

However chances were at a premium in the opening half an hour and instead an interesting battle for midfield dominance was being played out to determine who would come out on top between the two well-matched teams.

Peters almost played the impressive Heather Garriock in for Australia but she took one touch too heavy (26′). At the other end, Natalia Barbachina was played through but she pulled her shot, from the right edge of the box, well wide (27′).

Then, suddenly, out of nowhere Australia had the ball in the net. Rhian Davies clipped the ball through to Danielle Small who controlled instantly before striking the post with her second touch. The rebound fell to Kelly Golebiowski to gratefully tuck into the unguarded net (1-0, 38′).

Less than 60 seconds later and Russia were level in the most unfortunate fashion. Marina Saenko whipped in a right-sided free kick and defender Dianne Alagich miss-hit her clearance past Cassandra Kell and into her own net (1-1, 39′).

Having earlier struck a 40-yarder just over the bar, the Russian defender was proving to be a master of dead-ball situations and she forced Kell into a fine tip-over save just before half-time after another super strike from fully 35 yards (44′).

Saenko started the second half where she had left off in the first by hitting a stunning 22-yard free kick that Kell spectacularly fingertipped over (47′).

Strangely, the second half was taking the same form as the opening period with neither team really getting on top. Barbachina was isolated alone in attack for Yuri Bystritsky’s girls while, despite the elegance of Peters and good movement from Garriock and Golebiowski up front, the Matildas were finding it difficult to break down the Russian back line.

The Europeans should have taken the lead when Barbachina’s shirt was tugged by Tai Karp just inside the area. Elena Fomina sent the keeper the wrong way with the penalty but it struck the crossbar instead of bulging the net (72′).

Australia kept giving away free kicks in dangerous positions and from another, this time from Barbachina, Kell saved well low down to her right (73′).

The teams were noticeably tiring as the game entered its final stages and more chances were being created. Golebiowski’s chip was saved by Alia Volkova (82′), then Fomina tried to make up for her penalty miss by walking through the Australian defence but she took one touch too many (83′).

Russia almost won it in the last minute when the dangerous Barbachina was played through on goal, took the ball round the keeper but seemed to lose her footing at the crucial moment (89′).

Seconds later they did win it. Fomina, who had earlier missed the penalty, picked up possession 30 yards out, took two steps forward and belted a stinging shot that took a deflection off the knee of Matildas’ captain Cheryl Salisbury before finding the corner of the net (1-2, 89′).

Garriock came close to equalising with a 20-yard drive of her own in the dying seconds but there was no way back for the unlucky Australians (90′).

“We were a bit nervous at the beginning,” said Russian coach Yuri Bystritsky after the match. “But we finally got into our stride towards the end of the match. The three points now stands us in good stead for a place in the quarter-finals”

Australia coach Adrian Santrac was pleased with the performance but disappointed with the result.

“We played with a lot of heart and dominated possession but they sat back and absorbed it and then hit us on the break.” “

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