The CommBank ParaMatildas got their IFCPF Asia Oceania Championships campaign off to a winning start, defeating IFCPF World Cup 2022 bronze medalists Japan 3-0.
A brace to Georgia Beikoff and a goal to Annmarie De Uriarte meant that the CommBank ParaMatildas first ever competitive fixture on home soil ended in victory.
It was perfect weather for football for fans in the stands and on the hill at the Home of the Matildas in Melbourne. They were rewarded with a goal within seconds.
Midfielder Georgia Beikoff, golden boot winner at last year’s World Cup, intercepted the ball at the halfway mark. She only had one thing in her mind and after a short dribble, hammered it into the bottom corner to make it 1-0.
Beikoff was a constant presence in midfield throughout the game, often dropping back to win the ball and prevent counterattacks.
Japan did not let the early goal phase them. Ayumi Takemura was the centre-forward for the team in blue and had several opportunities in the half that required sharp saves from Katelyn Smith in goal. Saki Kuroki was also a constant threat down Japan’s left-hand side.
The best opportunity for Japan in the half came in the 10th minute, with Kuroki setting up a shot for Takemura. It required a diving save from Smith to keep the CommBank ParaMatildas clean sheet.
Japan goalkeeper Miyabi Hamada was also heavily involved in the match. In particular, she was forced into a sharp save in the 16th minute after an Eloise Northam strike.
Australia almost doubled their lead on the stroke of half time. They were first foiled by last ditch defending from Mayuko KaIga to block three consecutive shots from Nicole Christodoulou and Beikoff, followed by a shot from Christodoulou that fell just wide. A free kick in the last seconds of the half forced the save of the half from Hamada, diving to her left to prevent Beikoff’s second.
Half time brought a substitution from coach Kelly Stirton, with Karina Grigorian coming on up front to replace Nicole Christodoulou.
The CommBank Matildas continued to create opportunities but Japan’s defence held firm. In particular, Northam made a stunning run from deep in her own half, beating three defenders on the way. Her shot was saved by Hamada.
The introduction of Annmarie De Uriarte for Eloise Northam in the 36th minute almost immediately led to a goal. After a wonderful turn away from her defender, the 15-year-old hit the post, inches away from nestling into the back of the net.
She wouldn’t have to wait too long for her first goal in front of home fans. After some great work from Grigorian to play her the ball, the forward found some space to shoot on her left foot and shot true to make it 2-0.
Rae Anderson was substituted on the pitch in the 47th minute, replacing Tahlia Blanshard, who had put in a significant shift in defence.
Georgia Beikoff put the icing on the cake minutes later. A set play from a corner from the substitute Anderson, she rocketed it in the back of the net from some distance.
It was the perfect start to the tournament, and a wonderful way for the team to cap off their first ever game on home soil.
Attention now turns to their next game against Nepal tomorrow.
Australia: 3 (Georgia Beikoff 1’ 49’, Annmarie de Uriarte 45’)
Australia: 6. Katelyn Smith (GK) (c) 3. Tahlia Blanshard (Rae Anderson 47’) 7. Eloise Northam (8. Annmarie de Uriarte 36’) 2. Nicole Christodoulou (Karina Grigorian 25’) 10. Georgia Beikoff
Substitutes not used: 1.Carly Salmon, 5. Tamsin Colley
Japan: 3. Miyabi Hamada (Masami Ryochi 47’) 2. Mai Ohta 4. Saki Kuroki 5. Mayuko Kaiga 6. Ayumi Takemuri (Rie Ishihara 40’)
Match Day 4
Australia v Nepal
Date: Wednesday, 8 November 2023
Venue: Home of the Matildas (Field 1)
Kick-Off: 4:30pm AEDT
Broadcast: SBS On Demand, YouTube (international viewers only)