Written by the Football Federation Australia
The Australian Women's U19 Team (the Qantas Young Matildas) lost 2-1 to China U19s in last night's opening game of a three-match series held at the Soccerdrome in Bunbury, WA. It was a solid first hitout for the Australian combination, playing together for the first time.
The series is in preparation for both teams leading into November's FIFA U19 Women's World Championship in Thailand, with the final Australian team selections only announced yesterday from what had commenced as a 26-player squad in camp.
China were strong in the first half and were rewarded by two goals before half-time, whilst the Qantas Young Matildas settled and came out in much better form after the break and pulled a goal back. It was the first ever meeting between the two nations at youth level.
China soon asserted their authority against a nervous start from the Australians. The Asian number two team claimed the early lead eleven minutes in, when a freekick from 30 metres out on the left saw Sun Ling provide a looping ball in behind the home side defence, with Sun Yongxia converting with the header.
Australia's best chance for the half came in the 16th minute, Selin Kuralay unlucky to watch her header cleared off the goal-line. Two minutes later, a solid Jenna Tristram effort flew wide.
China then doubled their lead in the 25th minute, again set up by a freekick from wide left. A flat ball in picked out Zhang Ying whose deft header found the target just inside the near post. The Qantas Young Matildas continued to push forward at every available opportunity, led by midfielder Collette McCallum who was consistently dangerous down the left flank and sending in inviting crosses.
China had a golden opportunity to go to a three-goal lead five minutes before half-time, but the close-range attempt was sprayed high.
Australia displayed some flowing moves early after resumption to set the tone for their more polished second half assault. Their reward came in the 59th minute from one such neat build-up, setting up Tristram to unleash a towering chipped ball from the left. Leena Khamis was on hand to finish with a close range header past the keeper. Two minutes later, Khamis had an opportunity to equalise but miscued her strike.
The Qantas Young Matildas kept up the pressure on the Chinese defence, and midway through the half, a pinpoint Sally Shipard freekick set up Lauren Colthorpe for the header, but the chance sailed high.
China then lifted their game once again, for a fine showing from both teams. Australian goalkeeper Alison Logue kept her side in with a chance with six minutes remaining, making a fantastic diving save to deny a long range Chinese strike.
After learning of their first ever national team selection on the morning of the game, three players capped off a memorable day by making their youth international debut. Caitlin Cooper celebrated with a starting eleven berth, whilst Danielle Brogan and Briony Holcombe came on as substitutes.
Assistant National Youth Coach Alistair Edwards was happy with the performance of the newly-selected team in their first game.
"It was a solid start to our preparation for the world youth cup," said Edwards. "Some of the players didn't have any previous international experience, and it was the first time the world cup squad had played together. So the slow start in the first half wasn't entire unexpected. In the second half, the amount of improvement and the way the team performed gives us a great deal of optimism. We still have room for much more improvement, but overall it was a very pleasing start to the campaign. Iím looking forward to the next game."
The two teams return to Perth for the second clash, scheduled for Monday night 4 October, 7.00pm kickoff at Members Equity Stadium.