Gill fires Australia into the final
Westfield Matildas beat Japan to make the final and book their place in next year's Women's FIFA World Cup
The Westfield Matildas have produced a defensive master class at the Chengdu Sports Center to overcome Japan 1-nil in the semi-final of the AFC Women-s Asian Cup.
The result means Australia have not only won through to the 2010 AFC Women-s Asian Cup Final but have qualified first through Asia for the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011 in Germany.
A 46th minute goal from striker Katie Gill was the difference between the two sides with Australia-s defense proving the difference in the intense encounter.
The match started with Japan putting the Westfield Matildas under enormous pressure and in the 3rd minute Japan struck the post off a corner with the follow up shot flying inches over the Australian goal.
Australia found their way into the match in the 7th minute when a Collette McCallum through-ball found Sarah Walsh who streaked ahead of her marker and her well-waited cross landing in front of Heather Garriock and a pair of Japan defenders.
In a tangle of feet Garriock almost one a penalty only to have the ball swiftly under Japan-s control again.
On 15 minutes a Japan handball saw McCallum produce a typically dangerous free-kick which forced Japan-s goalkeeper Kaihori Ayumi to punch the ball only as far as fullback Lauren Colthorpe who knocked the ball back into the mix with Japan able to scramble the ball clear.
Japan, who took the lions share of possession in the first half, looked dangerous from set pieces and in a half that saw them take over 15 corners and free-kicks in Australia-s half were only denied a goal by the infallible Westfield Matildas- defense and goalkeeping.
On 35 minutes Japan had the best opportunity of the first half.
Following some intricate passing on the left and a chipped cross, Kim Carroll only just managed to put off the striker who placed her effort just wide of Melissa Barbieri-s goal.
Australia continued to soak up the pressure with the front three of Gill, Garriock and Walsh barely able to link up.
With five minutes to go in the half left-back Elise Kellond-Knight took on her player and played a neat ball to Garriock who with time to look up fed an inch perfect cross to Walsh whose controlled shot flew just wide of the target.
On 45 minutes Servet Uzunlar did brilliantly to stop a certain goal when she tackled Japan-s Nagasato Yuki who was millimeters from unleashing a shot from inside the six-yard-box.
A moment later and Australia pounced when a penetrating free-kick from Uzunlar found Gill who flicked into a bustling Japan box.
With Japan-s ‘keeper Ayumi unable to deal with the bouncing ball and Walsh rushing on the ball popped out and Clare Polkinghorne-s presence in the area forced a poor clearance from Japan-s Kumagai Saki who kicked the ball out of Ayumi-s hands and to Gill who took one touch before placing the ball over the heads of a pack of players for the Westfield Matildas to take a 1-nil lead into the half-time break.
Australia looked a lot stronger in the second half retaining more possession and creating more attacking opportunities with the game opening up a lot more than the first half.
A Colthorpe cross saw Garriock knock the ball into Gill-s path but her shot sailed just high of the Japan goal.
Soon after Sarah Walsh was given a through ball that saw the super quick striker blitz past her defender but her cross could not find Gill who was waiting at the back post.
Japan continued to look extremely dangerous with the ball and were given another chance from a set-piece when Garriock was wrongly penalised for attacking the ball when the Japan striker ducked her head into a challenge.
The resulting free-kick produced an excellent save from Westfield Matildas captain Melissa Barbieri who-s presence grew more and more immense as the game went on.
Teigen Allen came on for Walsh and immediately imposed herself on the game linking up well on the right side of Australia-s attack.
Australia had another scare when Japan-s Miyama Aya blasted a shot at the Australian goal which Barbieri saved comfortably.
The Westfield Matildas continued to soak up an enormous amount of pressure from the Japan side and reshuffled their defense when Aivi Luik came on for Colthorpe.
Kim Carroll and Servet Uzunlar were colossal in Australia-s defensive center while Collette McCallum, Sally Shipard and Clare Polkinghorne looked indefatigable in midfield.
Sam Kerr came on late in the gaming and with three minutes of added time the Westfield Matildas were on the ropes until a clearance found Kerr free on the halfway line and her mazing run amongst a host of Japanese defenders played in Player-of-the-Match, Clare Polkinghorne, who, after an 80-meter sprint, belted a shot into Ayumi-s side netting.
Japan ran out of time to get an equalizer and the full-time whistle came with the Westfield Matildas celebrating an historic win that sees them qualify for the FIFA Women-s World Cup for the fifth consecutive time and sees them reach the final of the AFC Women-s Asian Cup for the second time in three attempts.
“I think our defensive effort and our concentration was outstanding and I can-t praise my players high enough for that effort,” said Westfield Matildas Head Coach Tom Sermanni.
“It was a tense encounter and I thought Japan played extremely well but we kept in there and kept battling and got the win which is a huge result.
“Our second job, and the one that was probably most important to the team, is done - we-ve qualified for the World Cup.
“We-ve got to our second Asian Cup Final in three attempts now and with the belief and confidence in this team I think we can come away with it.”
The Westfield Matildas play in the 2010 AFC Women-s Asian Cup Final on Sunday May 30, at 9.30pm AEST live and exclusive on ABC 2 (7:30 local time).