Matilda mania hits Perth as Australia takes next step towards Paris 2024.
The post-World Cup hype showed no sign of slowing as 18,000 WA football fans turned out to see Australia's Matildas take another step in their quest towards Paris 2024 Olympics. Goals to Ellie Carpenter and home-town hero Sam Kerr helped Australia to a 2-nil win over Iran in the second-round of the AFC Olympic qualifiers held at HBF Park in Perth.
Several late arrivals and limited time in camp saw Matilda's coach Tony Gustavsson opt for a conservative approach as World Cup stars Sam Kerr, Hayley Raso, Mackenzie Arnold, Mary Fowler, Steph Catley, Caitlin Foord and Kyra Cooney-Cross all started on the bench. Despite some brave first-half defending from Iran, Ellie Carpenter opened the scoring for the Australians on 17 minutes after some neat lead up play inside the 6-yard box.
Carpenter again went close midway through the first half but fluffed her shot wide of the post. Australia's territorial dominance continued into the second half though it came with little reward as they struggled to break down Iran's resolute defence. With Australia holding the barest of margins, Gustavsson made changes with Kerr, Fowler and Catley all coming off the bench. The home crowd saved their biggest roar of the night for the 78-minute mark, when Catley drilled a low ball into the path of Kerr who fired home past the Iran keeper sending her hometown crowd into raptures. Despite the win and territorial dominance, Gustavsson said he had mixed feelings about the lead up and performance but saw the match as another learning opportunity "We're really, really happy to get back out on the park again, it's been nine weeks climbing the walls (sic), doing analysis and watching games. Finally I get to work with the players that go out there and play," he said. "(We had) very little prep (sic) time, a lot of jetlag, different issues with players' playing time and all sorts." "We said let's not just win the game, but try and get better at the areas we need to get better," he said. For Iran, coach Maryam Azmoon said her side would grow from the experience.. "After playing a team like Australia, we can only get stronger," she said via a team translator. Earlier in the afternoon, Philippines accounted easily for Chinese Taipei 4-1 in the other match in Group A. Australia will next take on Philippines at a sold out Optus Stadium on Sunday, while Iran will clash with Chinese Taipei.