International City: Simon and Williams star as Matildas complete China clean sweep

Melbourne City duo Kyah Simon and Lydia Williams both starred for the Matildas as Alen Stajcic’ side backed up a 3-0 win over China PR on Wednesday with a 5-1 demolition of the Steel Roses at GMHBA Stadium on Sunday.

Goalkeeer Williams put in an outstanding effort between the posts, whilst Simon was on the scoresheet for the Matildas, who wrapped up a successful year with a win in front of 6338 fans in Geelong.

Williams returned to the starting XI after being an unused substitute in the game on Wednesday, settling back into her familiar role as the Matildas’ number one.

She was joined in the starting XI by City teammates Simon, who started in a central role in the Matildas midfield, and Alanna Kennedy, playing in her usual centre back position.

Simon and Kennedy would go on to play the full 90 minutes.

Larissa Crummer was once again available off the bench, whilst Steph Catley was rested; Matildas head coach Alen Stajcic not risking the 23-year-old after she had her ankle stepped on by China’s Tang Jiali on Wednesday.

With the Matildas falling behind in the contest early after Williams was beaten by China PR’s Ren Guixin’s glancing shot off a Xu Yanlu cross in the 6th minute, Simon stepped up to bring the Matildas level.

Receiving a ball from a hustling Caitlin Foord 30 yards out from goal on a slight angle, took a touch to tee herself up before launching an absolute thunderbolt over the head of Chinese goalkeeper Bu Xiaolin and into the top left corner to bring the Matildas back level.

The goal is a continuation of Simon’s red-hot form, with the versatile forward having netted twice for City in her four games with the club since joining from Sydney FC in the offseason.

A 39th-minute lightning delay would briefly force the players off the field in the interests of safety, but the break failed to dull the instincts of Williams, who produced a fine save from a Ma Jun header late in first-half injury time to keep the score three goals to one.

She proved her mettle once again in the second, pulling off several world-class reaction saves as China PR fought to reduce the deficit.

Williams performance was worthy of a best-on-ground award, showing why she is not only City’s, but also the Matildas, first choice goalkeeper.

Crummer made her way onto the park in the 82nd minute, replacing Kerr and slotting onto the left wing.

Stajcic had nothing but praise for the City players in his team following the match, recognising the efforts of Williams in the Matildas goal:

“Lydia was excellent. It’s good to see her come into a game and produce at least four or five world-class saves," he said.

“Her saves were outstanding. To know that we’ve got someone like to rely on should we concede chances is a relief,”

Stajcic also praised the performance of Simon:

“Kyah did really well. She got us back into the game with a goal, but more just that she’s such a clever player and she’s got a really good football brain,”

“She’s certainly one of those ones that makes a lot of good moves in and around that penalty box and kept some good rhythm for us, to get in behind, get across and get her shots away,”

“I thought she had a really good game, and she lasted 90 minutes which shows that she’s reaching a good level of fitness”

Simon herself was happy with how she performed and the Matildas as a unit:

“I felt really good. For me, my number one priority is to make sure that I’m 100% fit and healthy and that’s what I felt out there,”

“I felt sharp as well, and whilst it’s always nice on a personal level to score a goal for me I’m just happy to get the win”

Simon was also upbeat about her return to football for both the Matildas and City and how she is looking to build off her early season form:

“I think that I’ve definitely got more to give and that’s what the most exciting part for me as an individual is,”

“Coming off such a long layoff I’m really enjoying my football at the moment and I’m feeling sharper and fitter,”

“That’s been my number one priority in my rehab and now that I’m back I want to get faster, I want to get fitter, I want to get sharper and I’m not going to be happy until I do,”

“I’m happy with were I am now but I’m not complacent, I’ve definitely got more room for improvement.”

City’s international representatives will now turn their sights back to the 2017/18 W-League campaign, with Patrick Kisnorbo's side facing Adelaide United on Sunday 3 December at 5pm.