Australia’s women stars have braved one of their toughest ever encounters to beat DPR Korea on penalties and win the 2010 AFC Women’s Asian Cup.
On their second attempt for Asia’s biggest football prize the Matildas defied a rain-soaked and humid Chengdu night and a rapidly deteriorating pitch to become the first Australian team to win the Asian Cup.
Following a tense opening 19 minutes of end-to-end football, Matildas’ youngster Sam Kerr opened the scoring when Clare Polkinghorne played in a diagonal ball and, beating the offside trap, Kerr guided the ball past the DPR Korea goalkeeper Hong Myong Hui.
The goal allowed Australia to increase their possession and with boosted confidence began to play the ball more and wrestle back control of the game from a DPR team that started the stronger.
DPR Korea looked dangerous on the break and with extra numbers out wide managed to overlap Australia on the right and put in some dangerous crosses but the Koreans failed to put the finishing touch on them.
With the game ebbing and flowing between the two teams attacking raids the Matildas’ Servet Uzunlar and Kim Carroll ensured the Australian’s would go to the break with the advantage with the pair a constant presence for Australia. Late in the half and a delightful ball from Collette McCallum allowed Kate Gill to turn with her first touch and found space to shoot with the ball just flying over the DPR goal.
The second half began much the same as the first ended with both teams fighting for every ball and every inch on the sparse and gravelly surface.
In the 59th minute Garriock did some dancing on the ball before cuting it back to Elise Kellond-Knight whose driven cross found the head of Polkinghorne but her powerful header was just off target. Minutes later and Sam Kerr was free down the right but her ball into the box rose too high for Gill to get the header and create the two goal buffer Australia so desperately wanted.
Despite some excellent short passing from the DPR side, their final ball was consistently lacking.
Australia looked to be in a perilous position in the 70th minute when Yun Hyon Hi got clear of the Australian defense only for the impeccable Matildas goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri to stand tall and make a fantastic save low to her left to keep the score at 1-nil.
Moments later and DPR Korea came at the Australian’s again with Ra Un Sim beating Kellond-Knight into the box with her shot crashing into the side netting. However DPR Korea could not be stopped, and with their momentum building a curling ball in from the right found the head of Jo Jun Mi who placed her header into the far corner of Barbieri’s goal to level the scores.
Australia replied almost immediately with McCallum’s perfect through ball finding Polkinghorne who, with the keeper to beat, could not find the target.
Head Coach Tom Sermanni, revealing freshly darkened hair for the first time in the tournament, replaced the impressive Sam Kerr with Kyah Simon hoping that the fresh striker could bring some life to the Australian attack.
With eight minutes to go in normal time the rain started to plummet down making the already smog filled pitch look like a bad day in Barnsley.
With four minutes of time added on, Australia received another scare with the ball coming in from the left and Un Sim’s header going just wide of the target. By the beginning of extra time the Chengdu Sports Center pitch was a boggy mire making the ground almost impossible to play football on.
Aivi Luik and Kylie Ledbrook came on during extra time for Collette McCallum and Elise Kellond-Knight who had both run themselves into the ground, producing strong performances to bolster the Matildas core.
DPR hit the post late on but the scores remained level. The biggest scare for the Matildas came late in the second half of injury time when the ball held up too much for Barbieri in the muddy conditions and her clearance cannoned off Hyon Hi and just wide of the Australian goal.
With the match level at the end of full-time the game headed for penalties. DPR Korea took first honours in the penalty shootout and struck with purpose. Australia followed up with Shipard hitting the target leveling the scores again.
DPR Korea handed the Matildas their biggest chance when Yun Song Mi missed to the right leaving the match open which the Aussies grabbed with both hands, sinking the remainder of their attempts with Gill, Garriock and Ledbrook finishing with complete composure.
Kyah Simon was left with the honours of securing a historic victory and stepped up to slot the ball into the top right sending the Matildas team into wild celebrations.
“I think this would be the best highlight of my career so far,” said Tom Sermanni.
“With this group of girls and the lead-up we had this is just a fantastic result. “I couldn’t be prouder of this group of girls and what they have achieved in such a short time.”
“I think it was an amazing effort by all of us and I thought we dug really deep and showed the true Aussie spirit to win the match,” said Servet Uzunlar.
“To not only qualify but to become the number one team in Asia is an absolutely fantastic achievement.”