The Matildas have put Taiwan to the sword as they strive for Olympic qualification.
The Matildas have put Taiwan to the sword as they strive for Olympic qualification.

No Kerr, no worries! Matildas in seven heaven

THE Matildas are up and running on the road to Tokyo, with Caitlin Foord proving that Australia have more than one weapon in their arsenal.

Ante Milicic's side strolled to a 7-0 victory in the rain of Campbelltown on Friday night, brushing aside a hapless Taiwan to earn three points in their quest for Olympic qualification.

With captain Sam Kerr confined to the bench, due to a quad strain, until the last half an hour, Foord took centre stage with a hat-trick in 28 minutes to set the tone.

Steph Catley, Hayley Raso, Katrina Gorry and - of course - Kerr added the others in a one-sided fixture scarcely worthy of the word contest.

With China defeating Thailand 6-1 earlier in the day, the result puts the Matildas top of their group on goal difference.

Former Matildas coach Alen Stajcic used to say Caitlin Foord could be one of the best players in the world, if only she believed in herself.

The Matildas got among the goals against Taiwan.
The Matildas got among the goals against Taiwan.

An impending move to Arsenal has underlined that status, and Foord showed both deft feet and clinical finishing - albeit against a willing but wilting defence.

Each goal owed much to the understanding built with teammates over years together in this team, such as the simple but penetrating one-two played with Kyah Simon before Foord swept in the first on 10 minutes.

The others were also close-range finishes, in each case played in by Emily van Egmond, as Taiwan's  offside trap disintegrated in the rain.

"Caitlin is the one player who can naturally hold the ball up, keep it moving and bring others into play," Milicic said.

"The fact Sammy could then come on for 30 as planned just gives us more options."

In her first appearance since late 2018, Kyah Simon showed why she still has much to offer at this level. Simon dropped into clever pockets of space to lure the visiting defence out of its deep-lying lines of resistance.

Simon is a model of persistence, an old hand at rehab now after several significant injuries, and more performances like this should take her to the Olympics.

"She's like a new player,' Milicic said.

"Her body hasn't been able to do this, but I've seen enough footage to know what she can do. She looked excellent at training, she has a presence and a touch of arrogance which as a coach I love."

Chances missed

On another day Australia could have had 10 goals, such was their dominance, and a harshly marking coach might say they should have done.

Still, Raso's confidence was visibly boosted by surging clear, rounding goalkeeper Cheng Ssu-Yu and slipping home the fifth, while Catley had already shown a wonderfully deft finish to score from van Egmond's pass.

All the crowd needed further was a goal for Kerr, and from Logarzo's pass the Chelsea star obliged emphatically, before Gorry added the seventh from close range in injury time.

Steph Catley celebrates a goal. Picture: Getty Images
Steph Catley celebrates a goal. Picture: Getty Images

Generous hosts

Tawian were weak, to put it kindly, but there were a couple of moments to give Milicic pause for thought: Ting Chi shot wastefully wide in the first half after being allowed time to gather a loose ball 10m out, and then Lydia Williams' misjudged slalom out of goal in the second period let Lee Hsiu-Chin round her but hit the post.

As the Matildas discovered at the World Cup, stronger opponents punish such lapses.

"We can't allow those chances if we're a serious team," Milicic said.

"We don't want to be a team that has nervous periods for no reason."

AUSTRALIA 7 (Caitlin Foord 9m, 24m, 38m, Steph Catley 31m, Hayley Raso 54m, Sam Kerr 64m, Katrina Gorry 90+2m) CHINESE TAIPEI 0 at Campbelltown Stadium. Referee: Hyeon Jeong Oh.

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