Manchester United wing Adriana Leon scored an early first-half goal and it stood up through a number of good Australian scoring chances as Tokyo Olympic champion Canada beat the Matildas 1-0 in a women’s soccer friendly on Saturday in Brisbane.
Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan kept Canada in the match when she made three saves on Matildas skipper Sam Kerr. Australia had seven of 11 shots on goal in the opening half.
Kerr laid a neat flick on for substitute Cortnee Vine to fire just wide in the 83rd minute as Australia pressed for the equalizer. Kerr, a forward for Chelsea, missed out again in added time when Sheridan again tipped a header over the bar.
A header by Kerr in the fourth minute was denied by a diving Sheridan after a cross from the left by Emily Van Egmond.
Canada opened the scoring in the 11th minute when Leon was given too much space by the Matildas just outside the box and the 29-year-old speared a rocket finish into the top right corner.
An advancing Sheridan denied Kerr again after a slick through-ball from Katrina Gorry. Gorry, who took a year off in 2021 to have a baby girl Harper, proved a constant threat.
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Canadian head coach Bev Priestman said her squad showed their determination in the face of adversity.
“I was most pleased with our commitment, our togetherness, and the will to do whatever it takes to win,” Priestman said in a release. “I couldn’t be more proud because, whatever they faced, whether it be travel delays, injuries to squad and all those sorts of things, but when the whistle went, they got down to business and they delivered.
“That makes me really proud.”
With 320 days to go until the World Cup kicks off in Australia and New Zealand, Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson has signaled that consistency and continuity in the team lineup will be the key.
“We weren’t intense enough in the first half. I think we were much more physical in the second half,” Gustavsson said. “Sam [Kerr] is a world-class goal scorer and on other days she scores three and everyone is really happy and she’s happy. It was just one of those days.”
Gustavsson was not able to start this campaign with his best team, with seven starting players from the Tokyo Olympics semifinal side that lost 1-0 to Sweden unavailable.
Two of those — forward Caitlin Foord and defender Steph Catley — could be available for the rematch with Canada on Tuesday in Sydney.