CommBank Matildas shock England 2-0

The CommBank Matildas have inflicted England’s first defeat in thirty games, shocking the Lionesses 2-0 in London.

Not only was it the first time that England had tasted defeat under head coach Sarina Wiegman, it was also the first time that they had conceded two goals in a match since April 2021. It was only the second time that they had been kept to a clean sheet, the other time coming against the Czech Republic.

Goals to Sam Kerr in the first half and a maiden international goal to Charlotte Grant in the second put the women in green and gold in dreamland.

The Australians returned to a defensive shape that looked more like the 4-4-2 that had served them so well in their seven game winning streak prior to the loss against Scotland on Friday. There were two changes to the starting line-up, Sam Kerr starting in place of Larissa Crummer up top and Tameka Yallop taking up position in left midfield in place of Cortnee Vine.

Three players from each team played the game without names on their shirts, to raise awareness for the Alzheimer’s Society.

It was quickly clear that coach Tony Gustavasson’s pre-match sentiment about playing brave was more than words. The CommBank Matildas pressed high, hoping to gain the advantage by winning the ball high up the field.

The first glimpse of this was seen as Mary Fowler won the ball high up the pitch in the ninth minute, but was unable to capitalise. Raso did the same a few moments later, taking advantage of an error from Esme Morgan. Her shot was blocked but it was the best chance of the game so far.

The European champions, however, continued to look dangerous. Lauren Hemp and Georgia Stanway in particular were combining well to cause Charli Grant a number of problems down the Australian left-hand side.

The defensive work of the Australians and a faultless Mackenzie Arnold performance – including regularly punching the ball away from set pieces and crosses – ensured that despite all of their menace in the front third, the England shot count was low in the first half, and clear-cut opportunities lower.

The work that the CommBank Matildas did in their defensive half and in the press soon paid off. A speculative long ball from Clare Hunt forced a mistake from England captain Leah Williamson, whose header back to her keeper did not have the required weight.

Sam Kerr was there to pounce. Still with plenty of work to do to beat goalkeeper Mary Earps, Kerr went for a delightful chip. The ball nestled into the back of the net and the Australians found themselves with an unexpected lead.

The introduction of the pace of Cortnee Vine came late in the second half, after a concerning ankle injury to Tameka Yallop.

Lauren James, a first-half substitute for England after Lauren Hemp was forced off with injury, looked dangerous, firing a shot over the crossbar in first-half stoppage time.

However, the Australians went into the break the happier of the two sides, holding onto their one goal advantage.

The Lionesses flew out of the blocks in the second half. They won an early free kick after a Mary Fowler handball just outside the box, but it was cleared away. The resulting corner was also cleared by a typically solid Clare Polkinghorne.

The second half continued a similar pattern to the first. England looked dangerous, but Australia’s defence held firm. When the CommBank Matildas did have the opportunity to counter, they did so with a real threat to England’s goal.

A fantastic example was in the 50th minute, when Cortnee Vine laid off a magnificent through ball to Sam Kerr after an explosive run. Kerr’s shot went wide, but it was a reminder of how well the team was playing.

It was on one such counter that the Australians scored their second. This time, Sam Kerr found herself on the break. Her cross found Charli Grant who was making a late run at the back post. Grant’s shot deflected off Leah Williamson – it just wasn’t the England captain’s night – and doubled Australia’s lead.

The CommBank Matildas could have been forgiven for shutting up shop in the final 25 minutes. Instead, they kept pressing for a third. It took some fantastic defending to deny Kerr again after a wonderful cross from Ellie Carpenter, who completed her first 90 minutes for the national team since her ACL injury.

England kept on coming. The last ten minutes or so was dominated by English chances. However, the defence continued to stand firm. Arnold was solid, Hunt and Polkinghorne put in a number of blocks, and the midfield duo of Katrina Gorry and Kyra Cooney-Cross were ever-present.

One final free kick late in stoppage time from Georgia Stanway ended up straight in the breadbasket of Mackenzie Arnold, and the CommBank Matildas saw the result home.

It was a match full of impressive performances across the park and will give the team a huge boost in the lead up to the World Cup in July.