The Matildas are in the box seat to qualify for Athens 2004 after comfortably defeating Papua New Guinea 10-0 this afternoon in Fiji, the Australians' first match of the Oceania Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament at Govind Park in Ba.
The result puts Australia at the top of the points ladder on goal difference ahead of Papua New Guinea who have now completed their two matches of the tournament.
The Matildas totally dominated the match from start to finish, and could have come away with a lot more goals but for some good goalkeeping and ineffective shooting. Teenager Kate Gill top scored with a first-half hattrick, with a pair each to Lisa De Vanna and substitute April Mann.
It was something of a hesitant first ten minutes for the Australians, having to adjust to a physical Papua New Guinea outfit who shut the ball down quickly. The favourites then settled into the game and controlled the play with ease, attacking at will either down the flanks, or with long balls over a flat defence, and supported by pace up front. Papua New Guinea had no answers in reply, and only got into their attacking third of the field once in the half.
The Matildas opened their account in the 5th minute when De Vanna received the ball deep on the left and weaved her way past three defenders before providing a short square ball to Gill unmarked in front of goal. Gill had the easy task of placing the ball past the keeper from 10 metres, for her first senior international goal.
Several more chances later, Australia doubled their lead in the 16th minute, Gill with a simple header to finish off a corner kick from the right. Four minutes later, a Sarah Walsh first-time volley crashed against the crossbar before she turned provider for Australia's third goal in the 23rd minute. A neat Walsh ball forward allowed De Vanna in for a solid header from 12 metres into the roof of the net, the striker also recording her first international goal.
Four goals in the space of eight minutes then took the Matildas in at the break with a 7-0 lead.
On the half-hour, De Vanna slotted the ball through for Walsh to race in and drive low past the keeper from 14 metres. Three minutes later, a dangerous long ball from Gill Foster deep on the left saw De Vanna on the burst to drive it into the back of the net from 15 metres. Another three minutes on, a Gill shot was well blocked by goalkeeper Roxanne Komeng, followed by another great reflex save to deny De Vanna off the loose rebound. Another strike from the melee was attempted to be booted off the line by a defender but fell in the path of Gill to steer the ball over the line from close range, Gill's trio for the match. Two minutes later, a Foster cross was fumbled on the ground by the keeper, and Peters was on the spot to slot the ball home.
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Komeng had made another five good saves since midway through the half, denying a Walsh drive, and Gill and Peters twice.
Although introducing two new forwards off the bench in April Mann and Selin Kuralay at halftime, the Australians' overall play in the second half was more laboured and lacking in spark in the Fiji heat. Though still dominating possession, the attacks were not as consistently penetrating and clear cut, as Papua New Guinea also picked up their defensive play.
Seven minutes after the interval, a neat passing combination resulted in a Mann cross from the right, falling perfectly for Kuralay on the run to place the shot past the keeper, Kuralay's first Matildas goal.
Papua New Guinea managed to create two shots on goal, the first a minute after Australia's eighth goal, and later midway through the second half. Both came from the boot of powerful striker Nellie Taman, the first a weak strike straight to goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri. Later, a great solo run from deep by Margaret Aka eluded two opponents before hitting a long ball forward for Taman who shot wide from 26 metres on the right.
Mann scored what became Australia's last two goals for the match. In the 65th minute, a short ball from Kuralay into the penalty box was nailed first-time from close range by Mann. Then in the 77th minute, a one-two combination by Rhian Davies and Leah Blayney on the right saw Davies' cross met by the head of Mann from 6 metres, Komeng getting a hand to the shot but the ball still finding its way into goal.
Australia played the last eleven minutes of the match a player short, having already made the three substitutions, when De Vanna received a heavy tackle to the ankle and was stretchered from the field.
National Coach Adrian Santrac was pleased to get the win but pointed out that there are areas of improvement needed. "That's the first game of two and obviously for us it's all about qualifying for the Olympics. There are a lot of areas we can improve on, and we'll continue to develop. This is only the third full game this squad has been together."
"The result itself is not the important thing - it's the way we play, and how we're constructing our moves going forward. We can improve a lot from what we did today. That's part of the learning process that players have to be able to finish under pressure. And that's the benefit of playing international football, to get that experience and become much more clinical in front of goal. We�re here to qualify for the Olympics and we want to concentrate on the performance aspect. We need to develop our understanding, our cohesion, and the ability to do what we're capable of doing."
The Matildas will look to secure their berth to the Olympics on Saturday when they face hosts Fiji in the last match of the tournament.