The Matildas have beaten New Zealand 3-1 in Canberra with a dominant performance that still left questions over their ability to finish chances.
In front of an enthusiastic 13,077 supporters in Canberra, Sam Kerr (2) and Hayley Raso scored to give the hosts a 3-0 lead.
However, New Zealand pegged a goal back with only their second chance of the game when Hannah Wilkinson showed great tenacity to slot home on the stoke of half-time.
Neither side were able to find the net in the second half, despite the Matildas creating a multitude of chances and, although New Zealand improved in the final 10 minutes, the visitors never really challenged Lydia Williams’ goal.
Kerr described the performance as “controlled” and that appeared a fair reflection to a contest in which the Matildas were clearly the better team throughout.
Making just one change from Friday’s frustrating outing in Townsville, with Caitlin Foord starting in place of Kyah Simon, the Matildas instantly impressed their dominance on the game.
The visitors were repeatedly exposed when trying to play out from the back, their admirable ambitions thwarted by the Matildas’ press.
However, New Zealand did have the first chance when Wilkinson got in behind the Matildas defense and sent a shot just wide of Lydia Williams’ goal.
The Matildas scythed through the Football Ferns at will, who aided and abetted their hosts with a litany of errors in possession, including the careless concession of a corner that led to Australia’s first goal.
One particularly egregious example saw Betsy Hasset passing the ball straight back over the dead ball line, bisecting her two closest team mates with unerring accuracy.
From the subsequent corner – the Matilda’s third of the game in the opening quarter hour – Kerr eased away from her marker, Olivia Chance, to powerfully head home virtually unchecked.
Two minutes later, the Matildas had their second, with Raso pouncing on a rebound to stroke the ball in off the far post.
Kerr added her second on the half-hour mark, racing on to a perfectly-weighted long ball by Emily van Egmond and into the penalty area before calmly slipping the ball past Erin Naylor.
Australia may have led 3-0 within half an hour, it could easily have been more, with Meikayla Moore making a stunning block from Kerr and Erin Naylor saving from Ellie Carpenter.
And plenty of other chances went begging, not least from Foord and van Egmond, the latter of which had coach Tony Gustavsson slapping at the air in frustration.
Gustavsson’s mood would further sour just before the break when New Zealand got one back, Wilkinson netting with her second clear chance of the match after the first outpacing and then out-muscling Claire Polkinghorne.
New Zealand did not have the ability nor possession to really punish Australia, but the Matildas’ inherent vulnerability to those through balls will concern supporters.
After the break, the Matildas continued where they left off, pressing New Zealand back and threatening the goal, Foord striking the crossbar with a curling effort.
New Zealand had appeared completely outmatched, their midfield missing in action and unable to string more than a handful of passes together until Malia Steinmetz and Rebekah Stott were introduced.
Combined with the wastefulness in front of goal, Gustavsson’s critics were unlikely to be paid by the Matildas’ team, with the Australia coach naming his strongest starting XI, missing another chance to experiment with his line up.
His options were reduced by Cortnee Vine’s pre-game injury, but a quintuple change just before the hour mark is unlikely to have told him much about his replacements, who were just afforded half an hour of game time.
He said the reason he played such a strong starting XI in both friends was due to possible absences in future camps, implying that the experimentation demanded by supporters will come later in the year.
Gustavsson said post-match that Alanna Kennedy’s injury in the second half stopped him from experimenting up front by replacing Kerr with Emily Gielnik and that he was not “allowed” to play Mary Fowler for the entire 90 minutes.
“We have different tools in there [up front] depending on how we want to play, “he said.
Despite the change in personnel, the profligacy in front of goal continued, with Kerr wasting her chance to score a hat trick with a shocking miss from right in front.
After the match, Aivi Luik shaved her head – with the assistance of Stott – after raising more than $ 30,000 for the Mark Hughes foundation after her brother Noah, was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
“I just wanted to do something,” Luik said.
“It’s just so heartwarming to get so much support.”