Sam Kerr inspires Australia to amazing win over England

Sam Kerr has led the Matildas to a 2-0 win over England – breaking England's two-year winning streak.

Sam Kerr has led the Matildas to a 2-0 win over England – breaking England's two-year winning streak.

Sam Kerr’s brilliance has fired her Matildas to a memorable and thoroughly merited 2-0 triumph over high-flying England in a huge fillip to their World Cup dreams.

Demonstrating once again why she’s the deadliest striker in the women’s game at Brentford’s Gtech Community Stadium on Tuesday, the Australian captain pounced on a first-half error by England skipper Leah Williamson to put the Matildas ahead.

Then she turned provider after the break, her pinpoint cross being headed home by Charlotte Grant, via a deflection off the hapless Williamson, to hand the European champions their first defeat in 31 matches.

It was an extraordinary result, carved out against all the odds by an injury-hit team on a miserable, rain-drenched night in London which perfectly demonstrated coach Tony Gustavsson’s belief that the Matildas need fear no-one at their home World Cup in July.

What an overseas send-off this was – and it was no absolutely no fluke.

From the outset, Kerr’s team, faced by an overwhelmingly partisan full house of 14,500, were as aggressive, in-your-face and committed as Gustavsson had promised they would be.

With their punch and invention on the counter-attack, they consistently discomfited a team that hadn’t lost a match for two years and had just won the Finalissima against South American champion Brazil.

Indeed, Australia might have won even more convincingly as England’s rearguard was stretched time and again by the Matildas’ sharpness on the counter-attack, with substitute Cortnee Vine, who’d come on for the injured Tameka Yallop in the first half, excelling.

Kerr was magnificent, leading from the front and ending worries over her fitness to spearhead their challenge.

The Chelsea ace was pronounced fit to lead the line in a starting line-up that showed two changes from the team beaten 1-0 by Scotland on Friday.

Kerr, rested for the Scotland game with Gustavsson refusing to say whether she was carrying an injury, replaced Larissa Crummer up front and the difference for Australia was like night and day.

With the rain driving down, the Matildas started, as Gustavsson suggested they would, without looking remotely overawed.

Hayley Raso provided the early spur with a couple of driving runs and a blocked shot as the Australians more than matched the European champions in the physicality stakes.

But as the game wore on, it appeared England was increasingly finding some rhythm. Georgia Stanway caused Charlotte Grant problems down the right flank and Alessia Russo volleyed wide from a Chloe Kelly cross.

Out of nowhere, Kerr struck in typically predatory fashion. She had barely had a sniff for the first 32 minutes but when Clare Hunt hoofed a long ball forward, she was on to her opposing captain Williamson like a hawk, shadowing her and anticipating that she’d try to nod the ball back to her keeper Mary Earps.

She did just that, but too weakly and Kerr diverted it expertly first-time over the advancing keeper for the 63rd goal of her storied international career.

England was stunned, but though players redoubled their pressure, Australia’s back four remained steadfast through to the break, despite the dispiriting sight of a limping Yallop being helped off the pitch after she came off worse in a challenge with Kelly.

Australia could have nicked a second with a couple of breaks early in the second half, which ended with Kerr missing two opportunities she’d normally gobble up.

England, while enjoying the lion’s share of possession, created only one really glaring chance, which sub Rachel Daley headed wide. Clare Polkinghorne and Hunt, absolute rocks in central defence, ensured there was no way through for the deflated home attack.


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