Sam Kerr netted her first FIFA Women’s World Cup™ goal but Italy snatched a stoppage-time winner to beat the Matildas 2-1 in the Group C opener.
Matildas captain Kerr slotted in the rebound after her 22nd-minute penalty was saved by Italian goalkeeper Laura Giuliani to give Australia a deserved half-time lead at the Stade du Hainaut.
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Barbara Bonansea pulled Italy level on 56 minutes after Clare Polkinghorne lost possession deep in her own territory, before Lisa De Vanna came on to record her fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup™ appearance.
The Matildas piled on the late pressure but Juventus attacker Bonansea pounced in the 95th minutes to double her tally and grab all three points for the Europeans in Valenciennes.
Head coach Ante Milicic named the same line-up which started the final warm-up game against the Netherlands and the Matildas threatened early when Kerr headed Steph Catley’s pin-point delivery over the crossbar.
Illaria Mauro made goalkeeper Lydia Williams save low down and, moments later, Bonansea had the ball in the net after breaking through the Matildas’ high defensive line. After a consultation with VAR, the offside decision was upheld and the scores remained deadlocked.
Catley’s crossing was causing problems for the Italians and another centre on 20 minutes was rifled towards goal by Emily van Egmond, almost falling for Hayley Raso. Minutes later, Kerr was bundled down in the box by Sara Gama and given a dream chance to open the scoring.
Giuliani came up big to stop Kerr’s 22nd minute spot-kick but the Matildas captain calmly tucked in the follow up. Van Egmond’s lofted shot cannoned back off the bar as the Matildas pushed for a second and Chloe Logarzo’s bullet header was gathered by Giuliani before the interval.
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Milicic’s side picked up where they left off after the break as Caitlin Foord’s strike was blocked following Ellie Carpenter’s cross on 54 minutes, before the Azzurre pulled level as Polkinghorne mis-controlled outside her own penalty area and Bonansea added a composed finish.
Alanna Kennedy saw her header fly wide of the post on 65 minutes as Australia looked to regain control, but Italy showed their pace on on the counter when Valentina Bergamaschi’s effort was charged down.
With Australia going searching for a winner, Katrina Gorry and Elise Kellond-Knight were introduced as Kerr found De Vanna with 10 minutes remaining but the Matildas all-time top goalscorer’s header drifted wide.
The Matildas were pushing hard as the clock ticked past 90 minutes, until an Italy free-kick found its way through to Bonansea at the back post and she headed a dramatic late winner.
World Cup France 2019™ – Group C – Australia Matches
Australia v Brazil
Date: Friday, 14 June 2019 (AEST)
Venue: Stade de la Mosson, Montpellier
Kick-off: 2.00am AEST (6.00pm local time, Thursday 13 June)
Jamaica v Australia
Date: Wednesday, 19 June 2019 (AEST)
Venue: Stade des Alpes, Grenoble
Kick-off: 5.00am AEST (9.00pm local time, Tuesday 18 June)