It was a thrilling team effort with Rhian Davies, middle left, and Sarah Walsh teaming up for another Matildas? play outwitting
It was a thrilling team effort with Rhian Davies, middle left, and Sarah Walsh teaming up for another Matildas? play outwitting

Hit the ground running

By GREG WHITE

IT took Hong Kong China eight seconds of game time in their Olympic qualifier with Australia to realise they'd be in for a torrid Easter Saturday.

With the BCU International Stadium grandstand packed to the rafters, not even the Matildas' most ardent supporters expected an opening onslaught that had the first shot at scoring taken before ground staff had cleared the field.

The second attempt came after 40 seconds ? Hong Kong almost pulled off an own goal at the one minute mark -then the Matildas launched a corner raid that ended with the football skimming the top of the net and bouncing once on its way to the security fence.

"That was exactly the tactics I set for them and the only disappointment was they missed their mark, and it took seven minutes to open the scoring," coach Tom Sermanni said.

"Goal difference will be crucial as to who progresses to Beijing and who misses out."

Australia eventually won 15-0 after leading 6-0 at half time.

Striker Kate Gill pulled off a star turn bagging five goals in her second consecutive international after picking up a five-goal haul against Taiwan in February.

But the blowout scoreline was to be expected with Australia, ranked 14th in the world, towering over the 68th-ranked minnows of womens football.

The result fell just six goals short of the Matidas' best-ever record, the 21-0 whitewash of American Samoas in 1998.

"We tended to score in spells, but in hindsight it could have been greater given our size advantage," Sermanni said.

"Maybe another five or six would have been helpful ... the margins we need are going to be that important."

Hong Kong allowed Australia to dictate and dominate, rarely physically confronting the home side.

In return, the Matildas took every opportunity to be aggressive.

Not by roughing their smaller opponents up ? their style was too sophisticated for that ? but by keeping up a constant stream of running and passing that usually finished with an under-pressure goalkeeper haunted by a 180 degree horseshoe of attackers coming straight at her.

Only once did Hong Kong cause anything remotely like stress for the Australians.

Maybe it was prompted by home soil over-confidence but with 10 Aussies in a threatening semi-circle around the opposing net, an escapee slipped through and with two passes was rapidly closing on goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri.

But the tension fizzled when the strike went straight to Barbieri's waiting arms, leaving the visitors totally despondent.

"No, not really," one wag in the crowd replied when asked if he felt any sadness for the underdogs.

"It evens up what Hong Kong stewards did to Takeover Target and Joe Janiak."

The Matildas break camp on Wednesday to travel to Taiwan for the second Group B match in Taipei next Sunday.

They play PRD Korea away on June 3 and back at BCU International Stadium on June 10.

AUSTRALIA 15 (Kate Gill 5, Collette McCallum 3, Sarah Walsh, Cheryl Salisbury 2, Joanne Peters, Joanne Burgess, Danielle Small goals) def HONG KONG CHINA nil.



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