The opening match in Group A at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Championship Russia 2006 at St. Petersburg's Petrovsky Stadium ended in a 3-0 victory for Australia over New Zealand. The Young Matildas' win came courtesy of a double strike from Collette McCallum and late goal from Sally Shipard.
McCallum's contribution drew particularly fulsome praise, although the player herself gave a modest assessment of her own performance. "I tried to get the corner kick past the goalkeeper," she said. "I'm very happy that it worked out that way. The second goal was a good shot. I think she (the goalkeeper) was a bit misplaced. To win 3-0 against New Zealand is a really good start."
Early on in the match, however, it was New Zealand who enjoyed more possession, showing no signs of being overawed by their more illustrious neighbours. And it was the Kiwis who created the game's first real chance, when left-winger Merissa Smith just failed to convert a dangerous free kick, swung in towards the far post.
Gradually, however, the Australians began to impose themselves and put the goal of Aroon Clansey under threat. But they were still unable to take control of midfield, as New Zealand made good use of the flanks, and created a several more good scoring opportunities.
In the 21st minute, New Zealand's Alexandra Riley carried the ball the length of the pitch before unleashing a bullet of a shot. It was only a last-gasp intervention from an Australian defender that prevented Sarah Gregorius from capitalising on the rebound.
Australian keeper Lydia Williams then needed to be at full stretch to prevent a curling free kick from Kirsty Yallop creeping in just beneath the crossbar. And finally, Kiwi central defender Hannah Rishworth sent a header wide from three metres out.
This wave of attacks finally shook the Young Matildas out of their complacency. Their blonde striker Sasha McDonnell started to make her presence felt in the New Zealand penalty area, while, down the left flank, McCallum began to look sharper.
She squandered a great chance to put Australia ahead when directing a shot straight at Clansey, but made amends in the 39th minute by scoring a quite brilliant opener. Direct from a corner kick, McCallum let fly with a rocket that cut through the Kiwi defence and into the roof of the net (0-1, 39').
Aussies assert their dominance
The Australians continued to push forward for the remainder of the first half, and Kiwi keeper Clansey looked increasingly troubled. On a couple of occasions she almost put the ball into her own net, and must have been relieved to make it to the break without conceding again.
Both teams emerged unchanged for the second half, and it was obvious that the Young Matildas had no intention of relinquishing the initiative. Clansey was soon called into action once more as she struggled to repel two powerful drives from the Australian number 11, Leah Blayney.
New Zealand managed to counter, through the pace of Riley, one of their best players. The defender sprinted down the right flank, before bursting into the box and unleashing a firm drive, which Lydia Williams in the Australian goal did well to hold.
After that, the Kiwis began to tire noticeable and Williams was rarely troubled. The Aussies were for the most part camped in the opposition half, but they had to wait until the 81st minute for their second goal. It came when McCallum, left unattended on the left flank, sent a swerving shot into the far corner of the net. Clansey misread the trajectory and could only get a fingertip to the ball (0-2, 81').
The AFC side made it 3-0 in additional time, when their captain Sally Shipard rose majestically to head home a corner kick (0-3, 90+3').
After the game New Zealnd coach John Herdman was full of praise for his opponents. "I take my hat off to the Australians," he said. "They had a game plan and they stuck to it. In international football the level of opposition is very high, and the goals that we conceded were world class. I feel for our keeper, but we were handed a real lesson today."
The Young Matildas' manager, Alistair Edwards was happy with the victory and even hinted that he was pleased that it came over Australia's old rivals. "We're delighted to open our campaign with a win, because it's always very important to get off to a good start. New Zealand and Australia know each other very well, so we're very happy to have scored three goals against them."
Player of the Match: COLLETTE McCALLUM.
"McCallum's two wonderful left-footed strikes, the first from a corner, the second a long-range effort, set Australia on the way to victory," Fran Hilton-Smith (RSA), FIFA Technical Study Group .