USA outclass Matildas in free-flowing bronze medal battle

Alanna Kennedy and Teagan Micah look on in despair as the USA's Carli Lloyd celebrates scoring her side's third goal against Australia on Thursday night. Picture: AP Photo/Andre Penner
Alanna Kennedy and Teagan Micah look on in despair as the USA's Carli Lloyd celebrates scoring her side's third goal against Australia on Thursday night. Picture: AP Photo/Andre Penner

They may have created history on Thursday night, but the Matildas will return to Australian shores without a medal.

It was the first time Australia had competed for a women's football Olympic medal. However, there was no bronze in Tokyo for Tony Gustavsson's side, as the US secured a 4-3 victory at Kashima Stadium.

The two sides had played out a scoreless draw last week, but it rained goals this time around. The bulk of the damage was done in the first half, with the Americans opening up a 3-1 lead at the break.

The Matildas had trailed by two goals for most of the second half, before substitute Emily Gielnik's 90th minute stunner gave Aussie fans hope, before the US held on to win.

US veterans Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd scored braces to give Australia's defence nightmares, who sorely missed the suspended Ellie Carpenter. Australia's other two goals were score by captain Samantha Kerr and Caitlin Foord.

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The Matildas applied the blowtorch in the opening minutes, but their opponents settled quickly and applied their own pressure.

Christen Press's attempt tipped over the bar by goalkeeper Teagan Micah, but the Aussies were then left shocked by some Rapinoe brilliance, who curled the ball home from the ensuing corner to give her side a 1-0 lead.

Momentum continued to swing towards the world number one, with Micah forced to make another good save when Press fired in a dangerous shot.

However, after absorbing so much pressure, it was the Matildas who scored next on the counter-attack, with Foord's great through ball setting up Samantha Kerr to score in the 16th minute.

Soon after, a great ball into the box from Tameka Yallop found Kerr's head, but she was unable to beat US goalkeeper Adrianna Franch.

While the Matildas appeared to settle, an errant clearance from defender Alanna Kennedy fell straight to Rapinoe, who launched the ball into the back of the net to give USA a 2-1 advantage.

After three goals were scored in the first 20 minutes, play continued to move from end to end. Press and Rapinoe loomed large for the Matildas defence, while Kerr looked Australia's most threatening presence in attack.

The US nearly had their third in the 38th minute via Carli Lloyd, with Micah making another good save.

But Lloyd made no mistake in stoppage time, firing the ball past a despairing Michah to give the Americans a 3-1 lead at half time.

Five minutes into the second half, more pain was inflicted on Australia's defence. Kennedy was unable to mop up a dangerous through ball, with Lloyd swooping to cap her brace.

However, the Matildas refused to give in. A brilliant cross from Kyah Simon found Foord, who headed the goal home from short range to pull the deficit back to 4-2.

Minutes later, Australia looked to have scored their third when Hayley Raso put in a pinpoint pass for Kerr, but her header smashed into the woodwork.

Midway through the half, Gustavsson turned to youth in a bid pull off a miraculous comeback, bringing on teenagers Mary Fowler, Courtney Nevin and Kyra Cooney-Cross.

And while the Australians continued to create opportunities, they were unable to find a crucial third goal as the clock continued to work against them.

In the 90th minute, Gielnik managed a consolation goal, firing home from long range to cut the margin to 4-3.

Late in stoppage time, the ball fell to Fowler inside the US box, but the youngster couldn't connect properly on goal, with the referee then blowing the full-time whistle.

Canada and Sweden will meet in the gold medal match on Friday.

This story USA outclass Matildas in free-flowing bronze medal battle first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.