Rio-bound Matildas claim top spot after sharing spoils with China


An Emily van Egmond 85th minute wonder strike ensured Australia's impressive 2016 Olympic Games qualifying campaign finished with a 1-1 draw against China, as the Matildas claimed top place in the group, at Osaka's Yanmar Stadium Nagai on Wednesday night.

It looked as though the Matildas, who booked their place in Rio 2016 after Monday's 2-1 win over North Korea, would be made to pay for a slightly lethargic start to the clash, which decided the winner of the AFC Women's Olympic qualifying zone.

But Australia continued to push in the second-half and van Egmond's stunning long-range strike ensured the Matildas ended their qualifying campaign on 13 points from five matches, with China finishing on 11 points.

With both sides having already claimed Asia’s two places at this year’s Olympic Games and playing their fifth game in ten days, there were plenty of new faces across the park.

Matildas coach Alen Stajcic said it was always going to be test of his players' mettle after the jubilation that came two nights earlier when they disposed of DPR Korea to cement their Olympic berth.

"Tonight's game was tough. Obviously both teams were coming off a very big high and then having to play another game is maybe a little bit emotionally tough but both teams still ran the game out," Stajcic said.

"We made a few changes in the team tonight and tried to mix things up a bit and give a few younger players a run. We were a little bit disjointed at times but I still think we tried to play good football and we ended up with an equaliser which I think was a fair result."

Stajcic made six changes to the team that triumphed over DPR Korea with Mackenzie Arnold, Ellie Carpenter, Caitlin Cooper, Tameka Butt, Kyah Simon and De Vanna all coming into the starting eleven.

China went ahead in the 16th minute through Ma Xiaoxu's header, after getting the better of Australia defender Laura Alleway in the air.

The Matildas had a chance to hit back just two minutes shy of half-time through Kyah Simon, who had bagged four goals in as many qualifiers leading into the contest, but the 24 year-old fired wide from an acute angle.

In a sign that the world number nine ranked side were playing for more than just pride Clare Polkinghorne, Michelle Heyman and Elise Kellond-Knight all entered the fray in the second stanza as Australia went on the attack.

The Matildas created plenty of chances as they searched for an equaliser with Caitlin Foord and Simon carving out the best opportunities.

And despite having the better of most of the second-half exchanges, it looked as though Australia would be frustrated but their never say die attitude shone through as van Egmond restored parity late on.

Australia Women 1 (van Egmond 85')
China Women 1 (Ma Xiaoxu 16') 

Yanmar Stadium Nagai, Osaka, Japan

Source FFA