Matildas gun Sam Kerr has helped Australia get out of trouble against Japan.
Matildas gun Sam Kerr has helped Australia get out of trouble against Japan.

Sam Kerr shoots Matildas into World Cup

THE eight-year Japanese big tournament hex was finally broken by a goal from world-class Matildas superstar Sam Kerr but in an incredible scenario both teams walked off smiling.

With Kerr's goal being enough for both teams to qualify for the World Cup the game turned farcical.

Both teams refused to get the ball forward due to the rewards for the 1-1 draw at Amman Stadium on Saturday (EST).

After Japan beat Australia in the 2014 Asian Cup final in Vietnam and eliminated the Matildas from the 2015 FIFA World Cup quarter-final in Canada it looked like the Japanese were about to break Australian hearts again.

Samantha May Kerr of Australia kicks the ball under pressure from Muzuho Sakaguchi (L) and Nana Ichise (R) of Japan during the AFC Women's Asian Cup Group B match between Japan and Australia.
Samantha May Kerr of Australia kicks the ball under pressure from Muzuho Sakaguchi (L) and Nana Ichise (R) of Japan during the AFC Women's Asian Cup Group B match between Japan and Australia.

Just as the Matildas looked to be crashing out of AFC Asian Cup contention to a side which has caused so much grief since 2010 when Australia beat the Japanese on the way to winning a maiden Asian Cup, Kerr was the hero.

Kerr smacking an 8m shot into the back of the net after a Kyah Simon cross was spilt by Japan goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita got Australia out of jail was sweet justice.

Kerr's goal now sees Australia face Thailand in the semi-final of the competition on Wednesday.

Australia topped Group B equal on five points with Japan second and South Korea out of Asian Cup contention in third spot.

Head-to-head results between Australia, Japan and South Korea sorted the order of the finish.

The score draw between Japan and Australia eliminated the two scoreless draws with South Korea from each side earlier in the tournament.

Australia and Japan have also qualified for next year's FIFA World Cup.

It was a riveting clash until Kerr's goal however.

Muzuho Sakaguchi, 30, a 2011 FIFA World Cup champion and 2014 Asian Cup winner drove a huge dagger through Australia's hearts when she calmly slotted a beautiful cut back from Hasegawa Yui in the 62nd minute.

Hasegawa continued to ask all the questions of Australia's defence from left back before finding the space to deliver the killer assist for Sakaguchi.

The goal clearly unsettled the Matildas as Japan was content to sit deep and pick off Australia in transition when sporadic attacks didn't leave a mark.

The Matildas however played its cards as if they needed victory - a draw would suffice - for a place in the last four of the AFC Asian Cup but as it pressed hard and high chances were wasted.

Yamashita not having a save to make in the first half wasn't quite the complete picture.

Australia through right-back Ellie Carpenter's quick long throws caught the Japanese off guard many times.

Australia's midfielder Chloe Logarzo (L) controls the ball ahead of Japan's defender Utsugi Rumi.
Australia's midfielder Chloe Logarzo (L) controls the ball ahead of Japan's defender Utsugi Rumi.

As the Matildas continually broke the last Japanese lines wide, once the ball was central there were too many defenders inside the box for any Matilda to have a clear shot on target.

Australia did catch Japan short of numbers in transition just once in the first half.

Skipper Emily van Egmond's long ball from a turnover saw the Japanese out of position but by the time veteran Lisa de Vanna tried to get a leg onto the ball inside the six yard box, Japan had the numbers to see the danger fizzle as the ball rolled out for a goal kick in the 15th minute.

For all of Australia's early half chances, Kerr blasting a long shot over the bar seemed to be a turning point for the Japanese in the 31st minute.

The underdog looked comfortable as Australia tried to force the issue.

Even the four wingers at times - Chloe Logarzo, de Vanna and full backs Carpenter and Steph Catley pushing very high - didn't rattle the reigning Asian Cup champion before the game started swinging Japan's way when left back Hasegawa started finding space.

Japan however had the same problem, as Australia's stoppers Claire Polkinghorne and Alana Kennedy refused to be drawn out of position which meant Japan striker Yuika Sugasawa was always isolated in an open match dominated by a clogged midfield battle.

Saki Kumagai of Japan and Samantha May Kerr of Australia in action.
Saki Kumagai of Japan and Samantha May Kerr of Australia in action.

De Vanna forced off just six minutes into the second half after falling heavily when she slipped on the turf in the 47th minute saw Hayley Raso take on the responsibilities of trying to crack Japan.

The theme was much the same as the start of the first half, Japan was camped deep and Australia had to be wary of being caught on the counter.

Hasegawa was again calling the shots and in the 62nd minute. Her ball to Mana Iwabuchi saw Lydia Williams tested for the first time but she made a comfortable save from an 18m shot.

A minute later Sakaguchi had the ball into the back of the net from 10m.

It was a goal which had Australia on the brink of Asian Cup elimination until Kerr's goal.

AFC women's Asian Cup

 

GROUP B final match

Australia 1 (Sam Kerr 86m) Japan 1 (Mizuho Sakaguchi 62m) at Amman Stadium - Referee: Ri Hyang OK (North Korea0

 

Other Group B matches

South Korea 4 Vietnam 0 at King Abdullah II Stadium.

 

Standings after three Group B matches

Australia - 5 points (+10 goals)

Japan - 5 pts (+4 goals)

South Korea - 5 pts (+4 goals)

Vietnam - 0 pts (-16 goals)

 

AFC Asian Cup semi finals

Tuesday/Wednesday

China v Japan at King Abdullah II Stadium

Kick off: 11.45pm (EST)

 

Australia v Thailand at King Abdullah II Stadium

Kick off: 3am (EST)

FIFA World Cup play off

Tuesday

 

South Korea v Philippines at Amman Stadium

Kick off: 3am (EST)



Boiler maker seeks $775k for manhole workplace injury

premium_icon Boiler maker seeks $775k for manhole workplace injury

CQ workplace accident after rains in 2016

717 fires across Queensland in past five days

717 fires across Queensland in past five days

ALMOST 50 fires have started in Central Region in the past five days

'Heartbreaking loss': Cyclones beaten in QBL semi

premium_icon 'Heartbreaking loss': Cyclones beaten in QBL semi

Rocky team's championship hopes dashed by Townsville

Local Partners