The Matildas were at their unstoppable best as they fired five past Olympics rivals Vietnam in front of 14,014 in Newcastle to take a commanding lead in the two-legged duel for a spot in Tokyo in July.
Sam Kerr opened the scoring for the Aussies ten minutes in, and added a second from the spot with ten to go to ice the Matildas’ 5–0 victory at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Chloe Logarzo doubled Australia’s lead just ahead of the half-hour mark, before hometown hero Emily van Egmond sent the Newcastle crowd into raptures with a strike in the 38th minute to take control of the tie.
Van Egmond—as well as Caitlin Foord and Kyah Simon—could have added even more. The Newy star missed two key chances for the ladies in green and gold, Foord hit the post, and Simon was denied by an on-the-line block from Vietnam’s defenders.
The Matildas did add more, however, with defender Clare Polkinghorne adding a collector’s item to the rout in Newcastle. Kerr finished the victory with her penalty kick.
While the 5–0 lead in the two-legged battle may be near-insurmountable, Australian coach Ante Milicic made sure to tell media after the game the squad would not “forget what’s at stake,” nor would they “disrespect” Vietnam on Wednesday.
“My experience in Asia in away legs is that you are never out of sight,” he added.
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That doesn’t mean he won’t be sitting back and celebrating the five-star performance from his stars as they march on towards the Olympics though. Considering he expected a tough challenge, he’s glad it ended up as lopsided as it did for the Aussies.
“We knew it would be a difficult game, it always is when you come up against an opponent who wants to sit back, defend deep and get bodies behind the ball,” he said.
“The match playing time was low due to injuries, and it is difficult not to get frustrated sometimes but in the end, I’m delighted with the result and the amount of clear-cut chances that we created.”
If the Matildas can confirm their place in the Tokyo Olympics next week, they will tick a box checked off only three times since Sydney 2000. Milicic’s squad will also be looking to make amends for Rio 2016, where they just missed a medal finish.
The second leg is in Vietnam on Wednesday.