Written by the Football Federation Australia
The Qantas Matildas suffered a reality check and realised just what it will take if they are to be a one of the top nations in Asia, if, as expected, Australia does become part of the region next year. Japan cruised to a 2-0 win at Telstra Stadium.
The performance and result was a disappointing one for coach Tom Sermanni, who was hoping to follow on from the success of the team in January’s four-nation tournament in China that included a victory over World Champions Germany.
However Japan dominated from the outset and it was only late on that the Australians found any urgency in attack and created some openings.
Japan showed from the opening whistle more urgency, especially when they didn’t have the ball, as they continually forced the Australians to turn over possession in dangerous positions and break quickly. It took just two minutes for this to occur with Ando’s shot straight at Melissa Barbieri after the Japanese striker had dispossessed Rhian Davies.
The Japanese also looked comfortable on the ball and continually turned the Australians around with some quick passing to its speedy front two.
In the 12th minute, Australia’s defence was again exposed when Nagasato was allowed to waltz through, but her shot from seven yards was straight at Barbieri with the goal at her mercy.
Lisa De Vanna however was causing some problems of her own with her speed and willingness to get stuck in and do the hard work and she almost had Australia in the lead two minutes later. A great through ball from Jo Peters put De Vanna through into the box, but her shot hit the near post and bounced back into the grateful arms of the Japanese keeper.
Unfortunately this was to be the only meaningful foray for Australia in the first half, although De Vanna did send one chip over the keeper, but also over the bar onto the roof of the net from an acute angle.
Most of the attacking came from the Japanese, and in particular Nagasato, who was causing problems whenever she got the ball.
If not for the assured defence of captain Cheryl Salisbury, Japan might well have had a half time lead, but it remained even at the break.
The break did little to break the pattern of play as Japan went straight on the attack and won a corner. After the initial corner was cleared the ball came out to left and a cross found Ando in acres of space at the far post. She had time to steady and blast her shot past a badly exposed Barbieri. It was no less than the Japanese deserved.
The goal seemed to spark Australia into life going forward, as Collette McCallum provided some spark, although the Japanese defence was holding firm.
Sermanni brought on Kelly Golebiowski for her first international appearance since the 2003 World Cup, which added a bit more grunt to the midfield.
But the Japanese always looked dangerous on the counter and Davies had to scramble away a dangerous situation on the hour mark. Two minutes later though it was 2-0, after loose marking by Australia again at the far post, saw Yanagita totally unmarked and she was able to slot home from close range.
Australia then upped the tempo, with Kate Gill going agonisingly wide with a header from the edge of the box, with the keeper well beaten.
Heather Garriock then showed great skill to cut back on the right edge of the penalty box, only to see her shot brilliantly saved by the Japanese keeper at the near post.
This however was to be the last decent opportunity for the Australians, who on the day were outplayed by a very well-organised Japan team.
Japanese striker Nagasato was named the PowerAde Player of the Match.
The two teams will meet again on Tuesday in a lunchtime match at Seymour Shaw Park in Miranda.