Australia’s Matildas snatch late goal to draw Olympic Games warm-up clash against China

The Matildas narrowly avoided a shock defeat in their Olympic warm-up clash with China at Adelaide Oval.

In front of a record crowd of 52,912, the Matildas were staring down the goal as the visitors took a shock first-half lead through Zhang Linyan.

The home side hustled and puffed without making a breakthrough until Mary Fowler’s 95th-minute free-kick deflected to veteran Michelle Heyman who slotted home to equalise.

It put a gloss on a difficult evening for the hugely fancied Australian side, who suffered injuries to Caitlin Foord and Clare Hunt during the match.

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Heyman, 35, volleyed the ball home from first in the fifth minute of stoppage time after China goalkeeper Xu Huan screamed and forced a free-kick to the edge of the box seconds before the final whistle.

Fowler’s cross bounced over six yards before Heyman scored as the Matildas delighted their screaming fans who had turned out to watch a disjointed performance.

“We wanted to keep the never-say-die attitude,” Heyman told Paramount Plus.

“We needed to move the ball a little bit faster, it wasn’t our best performance.”

The reigning AFC Women’s Asian Cup champions stunned the Matildas when the clash was 30 minutes old.

Zhang Linyan scored the opening goal with a beautiful volley from six meters after a brilliant assist from Wurigumula on the wing after a battle for the ball with Australia’s Kaitlyn Torpey.

The goal dampened the atmosphere at Adelaide Oval as the Chinese took a 1-0 lead into the break after Australia’s constant formation changes seemed to unsettle the home team.

China was better in the first 45 minutes and opened the second half super organized.

However, Matildas rising star Fowler, who started on the left wing before switching to the middle, had a great chance to equalize in the 56th minute but was denied by the brave gloves of Juan on the edge of the box.

Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson dropped five trusted stars from the bench in one stroke on the hour mark to settle the clash with Steph Catley, Foord, Hayley Raso, Ellie Carpenter and Kyra Cooney Cross adding speed, aggression and urgency to the line-up. .

Raso called for a spot-kick in the 73rd minute after her heels appeared to be in the box, but referee Yujeong Kim was unfazed by the Australian’s protest.

The crowd almost eclipsed the 53,008 fans who saw Adelaide United host English giants Liverpool in a friendly at the same venue in 2015.

Almost 18 years ago, the Matildas faced China in the final of the AFC Asian Cup, drawing around 5,000 fans to Hindmarsh Stadium, hailed at the time as a huge crowd.

In 2019, a then record crowd for a women’s football match in SA saw 10,342 fans watch the Matildas beat Chile 1-0 at Hindmarsh.

With just 18 spots available for the Matildas’ football squad at the Paris 2024 Games, Gustavsson may have to look at his game plan before deciding who to drop from the current 23-man squad.

South Australia’s Charli Grant has earned a start to prove her worth as the 18-man Olympic squad is announced on Tuesday.

With brilliant defender Carpenter starting from the bench after playing in last weekend’s UEFA Champions League final for France’s Lyon, Grant performed admirably after making his debut for England’s Tottenham Hotspur this year but was forced to watch the opening goal of his teammate Linyan.

Grant finished her shift in the 62nd minute for Carpenter.

Former Matildas boss Ante Miličić apparently opted for a cautious approach at the start of his first game on the bench for China.

His side initially refused to press as the Matildas constantly opted to move the ball from defense to attack, leaving the door open for counter-attacks.

After the home side were calm in that game plan, China forced the pressure inside 15 minutes, forcing the Matildas to rethink Gustavsson’s strategy after Linyan scored on the half-hour mark.

The Chinese proved to be an extremely stubborn opponent until Heyman scored a late equaliser, and there was a mixed reaction on social media.

“Credit to Fowler… that field goal was a real hit,” wrote one fan on X.

“It was a pretty rough game, hopefully Monday night will be a bit more exciting to watch!” another said he was looking forward to another friendly with China.

“I didn’t deserve that draw. Really poor performance for the most part and shows why Tony doesn’t like to change his team. The fringe players did nothing today to suggest they should be on the plane to Paris,” added a third.

Read related topics:Adelaide China

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