There was a strong Melbourne City presence at AAMI Park on Wednesday night as the Westfield Matildas began its two-match International Series against China PR with a 3-0 win in front of 10,904 fans.
City had five representatives in Matildas’ coach Alen Stajcic 21 strong squad; Steph Catley, Lydia Williams, Kyah Simon, Alanna Kennedy and Larissa Crummer.
Catley, Williams and Kennedy were all holdovers from the Matildas squad that played a two-game series against Brazil in September; a historic series that saw the Matildas defeat As Canarinhas across both legs of the series in front of bumper crowds in New South Wales.
Simon returned to the Matildas after missing the Brazil series and the preceding Tournament of Nations as she recovered from double shoulder surgery. She came into the game having tapped into a rich vein of form with City in the first four weeks of the W-League season, starting every match of the campaign and netting twice.
It was Crummer’s first time in the Matildas setup since the Rio Olympics, having overcome a difficult a run of injuries to start every game of the W-League season - where she has netted three goals - and force her way back into the Matildas squad.
Catley and Kennedy both started for the Matildas, with Kennedy lining up at centre-back alongside Brisbane Roar defender Clare Polkinghorne and Catley slotting in next to her at left back.
The two were big reasons why the Matildas dominated the China PR attack, with the Chinese attackers failing to get a shot away until late in the second half of the contest when they were already down three goals to nil.
Kennedy played a full 90 minutes, however, a brief scare was sent through the Matildas and City camps when Catley went down in the 35th minute.
Playing a ball into the penalty area from the left wing as she fell, Catley’s ankle was inadvertently stepped on by China’s Tang Jiali and she was briefly forced off the field for treatment, before returning to the action to finish the half.
As a precautionary measure, Catley was replaced at half-time by Sydney FC’s Chloe Logarzo.
Simon made her long-awaited return to the pitch in a Matildas shirt in the 67th minute replacing goal scorer Tameka Butt, slotting into the middle of the park for her 23 minutes.
Crummer made her even longer-awaited return to the Matildas in the 86th minute, coming on with Michelle Heyman to replace Sam Kerr and Lisa De Vanna.
Playing at AAMI Park, the ground she applies her trade at for Melbourne City, Catley was pleased with the turnout from the people of Melbourne:
“The crowds we had at our last home games in Australia were massive and they were the start of something big and it’s continued here in Melbourne and we’ve got another big crowd and hopefully every time we play in Australia that can keep growing and growing.”
“Especially in Melbourne, where there are so many sports to compete with, to have a crowd like that is absolutely incredible.”
Catley also had some kind words for Crummer, and the effort she’s made to get back into the national side:
“It’s so nice to have her back in the camp, she’s such a good character to have around.”
“She’s obviously been through a really hard time and has worked really hard to get back, so she absolutely deserves to be here and for her to get some minutes tonight is really positive”
“Obviously she’s doing really well for City too, so for her, the only way from here is up."
City goalkeeper Lydia Williams was an unused substitute, but looms as a likely starter as the Matildas aim to complete a clean sweep in the final match of the series in Geelong on Sunday.