Matildas lose 3-2 to world No.39 Chile
CONSISTENCY is key in football - and in their 3-2 loss to world No.39 Chile at Penrith Stadium on Saturday the Matildas showed the best and worst sides of the trait.
Off the park their mainstream appeal, which burst into public recognition 13 months ago at this very stadium, remained as a bumper crowd of 15,185 beat even the lauded figure achieved on that day by roughly 100.
But on the park, a treble of woeful defensive lapses ultimately sealed their fate.
Going into this clash, the Aussies were undefeated in 19 matches in NSW, a streak that extended back to 2007. And it appeared that trend would continue when they hit the front after just 9 minutes, assisted by a clumsy challenge from Chilean defender Geraldine Leyton.
Some nice build-up play had handed Caitlin Foord a golden opportunity to open the scoring, but instead it was left to Emily Van Egmond to do the business form the penalty spot after the former was taken down.
But a trio of mix-ups at the back from Alen Stajcic's side - which were ruthlessly capitalised on by the visitors - handed over the lead and eventually the match.
Van Egmond eased the scoreline with another well-taken penalty on the last kick of the game, but the damage was done as Chile grabbed one of the biggest wins in their history.
First, a hospital pass from centre-back Laura Alleway put keeper Lydia Williams under the pump as possession was turned over in a dangerous area just outside the box. The first shot - from Maria Jose Urrutia was kept out, but the rebound was met accurately by Francisca Lara, who made no mistake in lobbing the ball home.
Before the lead was doubled early in the second half as the Aussies failed to deal with a free kick whipped in from high on the left. As the ball ballooned into the area, Williams found herself out of position as Alleway's clearing header only went as far as Carla Guerrero, who guided a headed effort of her own into the bottom corner.
The Chileans were consistently solid on the ball, despite festering Aussie pressure throughout.
Keeper and skipper Christiane Endler, who plays her club football with Paris St Germain, was outstanding throughout as the Matildas created a string of chances in the first half.
Endler produced a string of strong stops towards the back end of the opening stanza with a close range block as Tameka Butt beared down on goal a highlight. She also kept out a pile driver from Van Egmond as the Aussies threatened.
However, Kerr should probably, by her own lofty standards, have found the net on 42 minutes as Van Egmond was again allowed to glide through midfield and dish into a dangerous position. But the No.20, who had the 15,000-ish strong crowd riding her every touch, skied her strike from an angle.
As the minutes went on, with the Aussies trailing, Stajcic turned to experienced duo Alanna Kennedy and Katrina Gorry off the bench. Alleway, who had struggled since her first half howler, made way alongside veteran speedster Lisa De Vanna, as the Matildas searched for a leveller.
The changes flowed as the game wore on, with the stretcher called for not once but twice for Chilean players as the intensity of the game took its toll. Kerr and co did their best to create chances in the latter stages, with the star striker dropping into deeper areas in a bid to boost her involvement.
The Matildas committed numbers forward, with overlapping runs and nice link-up play at the heart of their pursuits for an equaliser. Foord got into some good positions centrally as the wide players galloped into dangerous areas. But despite a number of forays down the wings, the killer touch was absent.
Gorry had a huge chance to nab a crucial goal in the 89th minute following a classy piece of gut running by Kerr, but the substitute couldn't test the keeper with her strike. And just moments later, the Matildas paid for their profligacy as Chile pounced on another wayward pass as Yanara Aedo raced in to create a one-on-one before sliding past Williams to seal the result.
There was some consolation for the Aussies though, as they were awarded another penalty in injury time. With Van Egmond again slotting home from the spot - with Endler not managing to get enough of a touch on the strike as it snuck into the net.
Chile, who had never beaten an opponent in the world's top 10 prior to this meeting, consign Stajcic's team to defeat in their first home clash since March. The Aussies will get the chance for revenge when the two teams meet again in Newcastle on Tuesday night.
Not the typically incisive Matildas we've come to expect going forward, and they'll need to be on their game to punish this solid Chile team next time out.
A timely reminder for the Aussies that there are no easy games from here as the road to next year's World Cup in France continues.