Melbourne City quarter Lydia Williams, Steph Catley, Tameka Yallop and Elise Kellond-Knight all started in the Matildas heart-breaking penalty shootout loss to Norway in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Round of 16 clash in Nice.
Head Coach Ante Milicic made four changes to the squad which defeated Jamaica 4-1 in the final game of Group C, with City duo Elise Kellond-Knight and Tameka Yallop both returning to the starting XI.
The Australians came out of the blocks firing in the first-half with two golden chances to open the scoring inside the opening exchanges. Captain Sam Kerr had a brilliant opportunity to make it 1-0 within 60 seconds after she latched onto Caitlin Foord’s through ball before firing her effort just wide, the skipper then combined brilliantly with Hayley Raso, but the pacey winger’s effort was fired straight at the Norwegian keeper.
To Norway’s credit they become increasingly more confident as the half progressed, breaking the deadlock through Herlovsen’s composed finish in the 31st minute.
With the half quickly drawing towards a close, the Matildas continued to push for an equaliser and looked to have earned a penalty when the referee pointed to the spot. Following a VAR review, the decision was overturned and before long both sides entered the dressing rooms with Norway holding a 1-0 lead.
The second-half proved to be a free-flowing affair with both teams looking to throw everything at securing a place in the quarter-finals.
With Norway holding onto their slender 1-0 lead, the Matildas earned a corner with seven minutes of regulation time remaining, up stepped City midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight. Kellond-Knight whipped in a dangerous low corner which beat everyone in front of goal, finding the back of the net to draw the Aussies level and put themselves back into the match.
With both teams locked at 1-1 at the final whistle, the Round of 16 clash was headed for extra time. From one City hero to another, it was City shot-stopper and Matildas number 1, Lydia Williams’ time to shine. A proven big game player, Williams again stepped up to the pressure of the big occasion making a number of world-class saves to deny the Norwegian’s in extra time.
A last man challenge saw the Matildas suffer a heavy blow, with central defender Alanna Kennedy shown a straight red on the 104th minute mark, but despite going down to 10-women the side in green and gold continued to fight, inspired by Williams in goal.
After 30 minutes of additional time the two teams could not be separated, meaning penalties would decide who would go on to make the quarter-finals.
Kerr stepped up to take the first, putting her effort high and wide. Guro Reiten then made no mistake with a well struck penalty before Emily Gielnik’s effort was saved. Maren Mjelde made the most of the Aussie’s poor start, dispatching her effort with great conviction. With all the pressure to keep the Matildas slim hopes of a shootout comeback alive, City captain Steph Catley placed her penalty perfectly into the top corner, but it wasn’t to be as Ingrid Syrstad Engen secured Norway’s place in the last eight with a brilliant spot kick – leaving the in-from Williams with very little chance.
With the Matildas now eliminated, Norway awaits the winner of the clash between England and Cameroon.