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Australia downed in football opener

4 August 2016

FOOTBALL: Australia’s football women have suffered a 2-0 defeat to Canada in their opening Group F encounter at Arena Corinthians this afternoon.

Janine Beckie and Christine Sinclair netted either side of the break and despite Canada being reduced to ten players early on, Australia was unable to find a way to break their stubborn opponents.

Not that Australia was without its positive moments, goalkeeper Lydia Williams produced a fine penalty save midway through the second half to keep Australia in the match and, for the most part, Alen Stajcic’s side dominated the encounter.

However, Australia now faces a formidable task to qualify through to the knockout stages of the tournament, their follow-up encounter against Germany on Saturday looming as a campaign-defining clash.

“We’re obviously very disappointed, the match was there for the taking and we weren’t good enough to take it,” said coach Stajcic after the match.

“Canada defended and grinded out the second half and we barely created a chance and Canada worked hard and denied us a lot of opportunities.

“We didn’t have the creativity and for all their (Canada’s) hard work, they got us on the counter attack and finished the game off and they deserved the victory.”

Australia’s glee at the sight of a team clad in green and gold once again at an Olympic Games football tournament was shattered by despair after just twenty seconds.

Beckie capitalised on an Australian defensive lapse straight from the kick off, handing the Canadians an extraordinary early advantage that had Australia on the back foot immediately.

Australia’s passage back into the game received a boost on 19 minutes when Canada defender Shelina Zadorsky was shown a straight red card for a foul on Michelle Heyman.

Heyman was through on goal before Zadorsky’s intervention, the dismissal produced by French referee Stephanie Frappart an accurate one.

There after, Australia took control of the encounter, with attacking ace Sam Kerr a particularly dangerous outlet on the left wing.

Kerr’s combinations with striker Heyman almost unlocked the Canada defence on several occasions – and an Elise Kellond-Knight free kick struck the cross bar – though Australia still returned to the dressing room 1-0 down.

The injection of Steph Catley off the bench at the break allowed Australiia a fresh attacking approach that almost paid dividends soon into the second half – Katrina Gorry’s long range strike forcing a fingertip save from the Canada goalkeeper.

Veteran and two-time Olympian Lisa De Vanna was introduced on the hour mark to add a further attacking threat, though Canada’s organsied and sometimes desperate structure proved a task too great for Australia’s impressive attacking line up.

Williams produced one for her highlights reel with fifteen minutes to play, her fine block of goal scorer Beckie’s penalty  - awarded after a Clare Polkinghorne handball – keeping Australia in the mix.

It was to be in vain though, Canada sealing their triumph with ten minutes to play after Sinclair showed great awareness on the counter while Australia – inclusive of goalkeeper Williams – all engaged in attack.

“It’s not the start you want, is it?” said Stajcic, in response to conceding inside the opening minute.

“But I thought we rebounded really well and thought in the first half we were the better team even when it was eleven v eleven, we created a number of chances during that period.

“For me, the first half wasn’t too bad, it was really the second half that was extremely disappointing, where we had the extra player for the full forty-five minutes and just lacked the creativity and the decision making, the awareness, the quality that you need in the front third to unravel a hard-working defence.”

Australia return to Arena Corinthians on Saturday to face European heavyweights Germany. Kick off is at 6pm (Sunday, 7 August 7am AEST).

Ben Coonan

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