Matildas seal 2-0 win over China in last pre-Games test

George Clarke |

The Matildas have scored a 2-0 win over China in their friendly in Sydney.
The Matildas have scored a 2-0 win over China in their friendly in Sydney.

Australia are heading to the Olympics on a high after sealing an encouraging 2-0 friendly win over China.

In the Matildas’ final pre-Games hit-out, second-half goals from Clare Wheeler and Hayley Raso earned Tony Gustavsson’s side victory on Monday night in front of 76,798 at Sydney’s Accor Stadium. 

Crucially for Gustavsson, who is already without Sam Kerr and has concerns over striker Caitilin Foord and midfield ace Katrina Gorry, there appeared to be no pressing injury concerns.

Clare Wheeler.
Clare Wheeler (L) opened the scoring in the Matildas’ 2-0 win over China. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

“We wanted to show who we really were tonight,” Gustavsson said. 

“I think we were very aggressive and very attacking-minded, and we should have been 2-0 up after 20 minutes.

“I think we played three or four different shapes tonight in terms of attack and rotations and it paid off.

“Also some game management at the end; even though we don’t like to play slow if you’re winning 1-0, you need to learn how to kill a game and save the legs for the next round.”

Hayley Raso.
Hayley Raso scored the Matildas’ second in an emphatic display from the home side. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

Gustavsson notified players earlier on Monday if they were in his 18-strong squad for Paris, which will be announced in Sydney on Tuesday.

The win also provided a fitting farewell to Matildas goalkeeping icon Lydia Williams, who will retire from international football following the Olympics.

Williams was substituted off late in the first half to a standing ovation and was able to lap up the victory from the Matildas’ bench.

“Seeing that reminds us that football can be so much more than the 90 minutes,” Gustavsson said.

“I have not been in her career for more than four years but to be a small part of it, I’m so humbled and privileged.”

Lydia Williams.
Lydia Williams farewelled home fans before being replaced before half time by Mackenzie Arnold. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

Gustavsson’s side showed a clinical edge to achieve the result, after clutching at half chances for much of the first half.

Alanna Kennedy fired a long-range effort over the bar and Tameka Yallop was unable to turn a low skidding ball into the Chinese six-yard box.

Raso had two handy chances but both times China goalkeeper Xu Huan was able to deny her.

China were disciplined and well organised and it was only on one of their few forays forward that Australia had a clear run to goal.

Michelle Heyman mazed her way past two defenders after a turnover just inside the China half, and the veteran forward did well right up until her final touch when she curled it wide of the post.

Soon after that near miss, Williams was subbed to a rapturous ovation near the end of the first half.

Gustavsson turned to his bench at the start of the second half and gained an instant impact.

Fresh on the field, Wheeler headed in a Steph Catley free-kick in the 48th minute to send the home crowd into a frenzy.

That buzz only grew when fellow substitute Cortnee Vine, playing in a more central role, sliced the Chinese defence apart with a sumptuous throughball to the feet of Raso six minutes later.

Real Madrid ace Raso was veering away from goal when she received the ball but was able to guide it away from Xu, steering home from a tight angle. 

Arnold was relatively untested at the Australian end, parrying away an effort from Chinese forward Zhang Linyan in an otherwise routine performance.

AAP