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'Plenty of options' as Kerr Plan B, intrigue over Fowler as Matildas beat NZ

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12th April, 2022
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Sam Kerr’s first-half double has driven the Matildas to a strong win against New Zealand and further showed just how much the 2023 World Cup hosts rely on the superstar striker.

The nation’s all-time leading scorer was at her damaging best, bringing up her 58th and 59th international goals as Australia knocked off the Kiwis 3-1.

It meant back-to-back wins for the Matildas in their two-game series having won 2-1 in Townsville on Friday night.

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They’d needed 37 shots in the first meeting to score twice but it only took five attempts to reach that mark in the nation’s capital, with captain Kerr and Hayley Raso giving them a 2-0 lead after 17 minutes.

The three-minute flurry saw the legendary Kerr unmarked to head home a corner before Raso curled one home on her left foot from outside the box without giving Kiwi keeper Erin Nayler a chance.

It was a brutal double blow a New Zealand side that should have led on four minutes, but the usually lethal Hannah Wilkinson fired her shot wide after finding an acre of space on the counterattack.

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Playing the free-flowing, fast football coach Tony Gustavsson had demanded pre-game, Kerr, Mary Fowler, Caitlin Foord and Emily van Egmond combined crisp passes and burst forward at will.

Van Egmond pushed a great chance wide on 25 minutes.

She more than made up for it shortly after, playing a delightful chipped ball that allowed Kerr to beat the offside trap and double up with a sublime outside-foot finish for 3-0.

But New Zealand found some sort of lifeline on the stroke of halftime, with Wilkinson getting onto a clever pass from Olivia Chance and burrowing her way through defenders for an industrious goal.

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That meant a fourth straight match the Matildas had failed to keep a clean sheet.

Kerr wasted a couple of gilt-edged chances to notch her hat-trick, putting another towering header high after Steph Catley’s gorgeous cross and another header wide from point-blank range from a sharp Charlotte Grant ball on 68 minutes.

Her chances highlighted a more dour second half where scoring opportunities were much harder to find in front of 13,077 fans at GIO Stadium.

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“It was controlled performance and we had lots of chances,” Kerr said.

“It was a nice way to bounce back from the other day – although we won we felt we should have finished it in the first half like we did today.

“I’m always happy to be playing for my national team. A hat-trick would have been good but three goals for the team and a win is everything I want.”

There was an emotional aftermath to the game when players from both teams watched Matildas midfielder Aivi Luik have her head shaved following her brother’s diagnosis of a brain tumour.

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Luik raised more than $30,000 for the Mark Hughes Foundation.

Luik’s youngest sibling Noa Kerwick, 27, has been diagnosed with Oligodendrogliomam, a brain tumour.

Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson told 10 he was “a bit too emotional to talk about football” after witnessing the moment, although the Swede did elaborate when pushed to by Andy Harper.

Harper asked: “What is your plan, perish the thought that something happens to Sam Kerr before the next World Cup?”

Gustavsson said he felt the team had “plenty of options in the nine – it depends on how we want to play.” They included Mary Fowler and Kyah Simon as a false nine.

The coach was pushed on when he would starting giving Fowler 90 minutes in a game – having played just seven full matches in her 26 appearances.

“As soon as I’m allowed to play her 90. This camp I wasn’t. She had a couple of issues we needed to deal with – I wasn’t allowed to play her. We also have to look at player well-being and protect the, I would love to play her 90 minutes when I can.”

© AAP

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