Australia players look on anxiously during the shootout.
Australia players look on anxiously during the shootout.

Matildas: ‘Worst performance I’ve been involved in’

ALANNA Kennedy's last-gasp goal in stoppage time was the catalyst in saving the Matildas from a shock semi-final exit at King Abdullah II Stadium in Amman.

Kennedy breathed a sigh of relief but described the Matildas performance against Thailand in the AFC Asian Cup semi-final as one of the worst she had been involved in for Australia.

The Matildas' stopper's 91st minute header from an Elise Kellond-Knight corner saw the Matildas survive extra-time unscathed before a penalty shootout was needed to see off a Thailand which almost embarrassed the Australians.

Sam Kerr finished off the resilient Thais with the match winning penalty kick in a 3-1 shootout win when keeper McKenzie Arnold made three consecutive saves from the spot after the clash was locked at 2-2 to ensure the Matildas play in a fourth Asian Cup final on Friday at Amman Stadium.

"After it went in (the goal) I couldn't even tell you I was just overwhelmed with happiness and relief and pride,'' Kennedy said before boarding the Matildas team bus which headed to the team hotel in Amman.

"We know we are a better team than what we had out on the field, we were just happy that we felt we got through.

"We're disappointed with our performance, we're not happy with that and we have to fix a few things before we get to the final.

Alanna Kennedy reacts after a missed chance.
Alanna Kennedy reacts after a missed chance.

"It's absolutely the worst performance I have been involved in for a number of years.

"The positive is we did overcome that and we did end up winning.

"We want to be a tournament team, one that can show up in big moments like tonight."

In a lethargic first-half performance which was laden with uncharacteristic mistakes the Australians got a lucky break when Thailand's Kanchanaporn Saenkhun scored an own goal when her attempt to clear an Emily Gielnik cross skimmed off her head and into the net in the 17th minute.

Just three minutes later Thailand restored parity when poor defending saw Kanjana Sung-Ngoen loop a 30m ball over the outstretched arms of Arnold after a long ball to the striker caught the Matildas defence out of shape.

relief for the Matildas.
relief for the Matildas.

To make matters worse Thailand - after asking many questions of the Matildas defence prior - scored a second goal in the 62nd minute when Thongsombut Rattikan was first to react to a very nervous defence which found itself in trouble when a simple Kyah Simon back pass caused major panic when Arnold's clearance didn't leave the penalty box.

"I just thought to myself it was one of those games and we need to dig ourselves out of this,'' Kennedy said.

"I never for a second doubted that we would and we left it down to the wire.

"The field was slow and their striker upfront was a good player and maybe we just underestimated her, we came into the game thinking not to be complacent.

"It was a hard match and now I'm exhausted."