HomeFootball NewsSam Kerr-less Australia Grinds Down Ireland in Nervy Women's World Cup Opener

Sam Kerr-less Australia Grinds Down Ireland in Nervy Women’s World Cup Opener

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An Australian side missing their injured superstar, Sam Kerr, overcame a nervy start to the Women’s World Cup with a hard-fought 1-0 victory against debutants Ireland in front of an electrifying 75,000-strong crowd at Sydney’s pulsating Stadium Australia.

Stand-in skipper Steph Catley’s composed penalty in the 52nd minute proved to be the only goal of a full-blooded game that ignited in the second half, propelling Australia to three crucial points in a challenging Group B and kick-starting their quest to advance beyond the quarter-finals for the first time.

The absence of Chelsea striker Sam Kerr, the Matildas’ all-time leading goal-scorer, due to a calf injury posed a significant setback for the Australian team. She was ruled out at least until their third group game, and her absence also meant missing the upcoming clash against Nigeria. The team’s medical staff will assess her condition ahead of their final group match against Olympic champions Canada.

Despite Sam Kerr’s absence, the enthusiastic cheers from the 75,784-strong crowd resonated throughout the stadium, creating an unforgettable atmosphere for the record crowd for a women’s game in Australia. Among the spirited supporters were numerous Irish fans, adding to the thrilling ambiance.

The match began with a cagey opening, with Ireland effectively blunting Australia’s typically high-octane game through solid defense. Manchester City’s Mary Fowler, who previously secured a victory against France, started in Kerr’s place, while Arsenal’s Steph Catley led the team as captain.

Australia’s first glimpse of a goal came in the 16th minute, but Clare Hunt’s header from Kyra Cooney-Cross’s corner sailed wide. Despite some decent opportunities, including Hayley Raso’s header grazing the upright and Caitlin Foord’s left-foot strike hitting the side-netting, the teams entered halftime goalless.

The game escalated in intensity in the second half, with both sides delivering clattering challenges. Seven minutes into the half, the breakthrough occurred when Raso was brought down in the penalty box by Marissa Sheva. With Kerr unavailable, Steph Catley stepped up confidently and powerfully dispatched her spot-kick into the left-hand corner, sparking jubilation among the home crowd and immense relief for Australia.

The goal brought life to the contest, and Fowler nearly doubled the lead shortly after, but her effort soared over the bar. Determined not to surrender, Ireland launched waves of attacks in a desperate push for an equalizer. However, Australia’s defensive resilience, reinforced by players throwing themselves behind the ball, ensured an unconvincing but crucial victory.

The hard-fought win marks a positive start for Australia’s Women’s World Cup campaign as they strive to reach new heights in the tournament. While Sam Kerr’s absence poses challenges, the team displayed grit and determination to secure three crucial points in their opening encounter. As the Women’s World Cup progresses, Australia’s ambitions to become title contenders will continue to be a focal point of the tournament.

 

Jon Fisher
Jon Fisher
Jon has over 20 years' experience in sports journalism having worked at the Press Association, Goal and Stats Perform, covering three World Cups, an Olympics and numerous other major sporting events.

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