Australia move on from thrashing as Matildas ride luck in draw with Portugal
The Matildas bounced back from their 7-0 drubbing by Spain at the weekend by claiming a 1-1 draw against Portugal in Estoril, but the improved result still left coach Tony Gustavsson “very disappointed”.
Princess Ibini-Isei came of the bench to put the visitors into the lead on 73 minutes with her first international goal, punishing some earlier profligacy from Portugal. But Gustavsson’s side were denied victory by a late equaliser from Telma Encarnacao as time ran out at the Estadio Antonio Coimbra da Mota.
In their first meeting since 2018, and fourth overall, the hosts enjoyed the majority of possession and chances in the opening half but substitute Ibini-Isei put the Matildas in front by finishing off good lead-up work down the right flank involving Larissa Crummer and Emily Gielnik.
“We spoke about it today in the pre-game meeting that the game-changers needed to be ready to play the game from the bench, read the game, know what it’s like, so when they come in, they have a good idea what it looks like. Princess came in and made a really big impact,” Gustavsson said.
But the home side, ranked 30th in the world and 18 spots below the Australians, levelled from close range in the 87th minute through another substitute, Encarnacao, after a sloppy turnover.
“We talked about game management, time management, smart decisions on the ball. We should’ve got away with a win, but we had a little bit of an inexperienced team on the field and that’s the tough learning when you make a mistake like that,” Gustavsson said.
“I have mixed emotions, to be honest. I’m very disappointed that we lost this game, considering we were up one-nil with very few minutes left.”
The goal though, would have been ruled out for offside if VAR was in use. Encarnacao could have won it just a minute later, and then with the last kick of the game deep into added time, but Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams saved on both occasions.
After not playing against world No.7 Spain, the veteran shot-stopper was handed the captain’s armband to celebrate her 100-game milestone. It was one of only two changes to the starting 11, along with striker Remy Siemsen, humbled in Huelva three days earlier.
“A lot of teams would be devastated, low in energy and maybe stopped believing [after the Spain loss], but there’s a really true belief in this core group of staff and a core group of players and they know that we need to go through this tough experience to come out a better team,” Gustavsson said.
“What I’d say is the first half was really tough mentally because the wind was really hard and you saw all the technical mistakes that we made in the first half. The wind was killing us. Then in the second half, when we had the wind with us, there was better technical execution.”
The Matildas now look forward to two matches on home soil in early September against Canada, who claimed the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.