Hunt and CommBank Matildas claim second Cup of Nations victory against Spain

The CommBank Matildas have produced one of their best performances of the Gustavsson era, capitalising on an electric first-half performance to shock world number seven Spain 3-2 and win match two of the Cup of Nations.

Goals to Cortnee Vine, Clare Polkinghorne and Caitlin Foord ensured that the majority of 17,333 fans at CommBank Stadium in Parramatta went home happy. It is Australia’s sixth win in six games that have included the likes of Denmark, Sweden and now Spain.

For the players who were in the squad that toured Spain in June last year, and were defeated 7-0 by the European giants, the result would have felt like redemption.

Tony Gustavsson made two changes to the starting side that defeated Spain on Thursday night. Clare Hunt followed up her first appearance in green and gold with her first start, and Caitlin Foord started up top alongside Sam Kerr. Aivi Luik and Mary Fowler started on the bench.

This game was mooted as a clash of styles – a passing team, in Spain, against a high-pressing CommBank Matildas. The challenge for Gustavsson and his coaching team was going to be putting together a plan that combated the strengths of a side that had defeated the world number 1 USA only a few months ago.

The continuation of the energy that the team found in the second half against Czechia was evident from the opening whistle. That high press that was promised was evident throughout the game, and the team’s ability to transition quickly from defence into attack was a constant threat to the Spanish back line.

The first warning shot came in only the 2nd minute. In a pattern that became familiar throughout the game, a Sam Kerr header found Caitlin Foord, who was able to release a rapid Cortnee Vine. While her shot was blocked on that occasion, the front four including Hayley Raso wreaked havoc on the break.

It was one of those counters that led to Australia’s first ever goal against Spain. Hayley Raso was able to find Cortnee Vine on the edge of the area after an explosive run down the wing. Vine assessed her options, leant back and walloped it into the top of the net. The crowd erupted as the Sydney FC winger scored her first national team goal on home soil.

The team didn’t rest on their laurels. The second goal came in the 16th minute, with Clare Polkinghorne managing to score her second goal in two games. It was again Hayley Raso with a cross in from wide that found the head of Sam Kerr. The ball bobbed up perfectly for Polkinghorne, still up after a corner, who was able to stab it home.

Spain were not without chances of their own. All-time leading goalscorer for both Barcelona and Spain, Jennifer Hermoso, looked a constant threat throughout. However, the defence stood strong in the first half. In particular, Clare Hunt grew into the game on her starting debut and made a number of crucial blocks and interceptions.

In the 38th minute, captain Sam Kerr thought that she was on the scoresheet after heading home a wonderful ball from Kyra Cooney-Cross – however, she was flagged offside. Replays showed that Kerr could feel slightly hard done by, but fans didn’t have to wait too much longer for a third goal.

It was only three minutes later that a free kick won by Hayley Raso paid dividends. A textbook delivery from Steph Catley found the head of Caitlin Foord, who powered home the goal to leave the CommBank Matildas 3-0 up at half time.

As expected, Spain came out in the second half full of running. Soon after the break, Hermoso broke to shoot straight at Arnold. The Spanish front line looked threatening, particularly Olga Carmona.

That the CommBank Matildas kept Spain out for so long was largely the result of an inspired performance from goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold. In particular, a wonderful save with her right foot in the 62nd minute after Sheila Garcia was played through on goal stood out.

The pressure finally told in the 74th minute. A wonderful long driven ball from Olga Carmona found its way through the CommBank Matildas defence and into the bottom corner. It was no less than their second half pressure deserved.

As Spain continued to knock on the door, the defence – bolstered by the additions of Larissa Crummer at right wing back in the 58th minute, and Courtney Nevin in the 72nd – continued to stand tall. 

Alba Redondo reminded fans – and the world watching on – just what quality that Spain has on offer deep into stoppage time, smashing home a Marta Cardona cross on the volley in an extraordinary piece of skill. However, by that stage, it was too late for Spain to find the equaliser, and the CommBank Matildas held on to a historic win.

The CommBank Matildas will be in action again on Wednesday night, as they finish their Cup of Nations campaign in Newcastle against Jamaica.

Match Day Three
Date: Wednesday, 22 February 2023
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle, NSW
Match One: Czechia v Spain – 2.30 pm kick-off AEDT. Broadcast on Paramount+
Match Two: CommBank Matildas v Jamaica – 7.10 pm kick-off AEDT. Broadcast on 10 Bold, 10 Play and Paramount+
Tickets: Buy tickets!