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Highlights, stats, Sam Kerr goals

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It wasn’t pretty, nor was it convincing but it’s all but passage sealed to the Women’s Asian Cup quarter-finals for the Matildas.

Memories of the 18-0 drubbing over Indonesia were quickly put to rest as Australia were given their first real test of the tournament by a well-drilled Philippines outfit.

After an uninspiring, goalless opening-half, Sam Kerr nodded home her sixth goal in two games before Emily van Egmond, Mary Fowler and a Hali Long own-goal rounded out the scorers to close-out the 4-0 win.

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While the result solidified their spot on-top of Group B, the performance raised more questions than answers especially in regarding how they perform against a disciplined defensive unit.

The Philippines, led by former Matildas coach Alen Stajcic in his first match against his old side since his controversial sacking in 2019, proved to be a headache from the onset and didn’t allow the Australian midfield to have the same amount of control as they were afforded in their opening group game.

Australia players celebrate their first goal scored by Sam Kerr. Picture: Thananuwat Srirasant
Australia players celebrate their first goal scored by Sam Kerr. Picture: Thananuwat SrirasantSource: Getty Images

While the Matildas created ample chances across the first 45 minutes, Stajcic’s Philippines outfit defended brilliantly to ensure the scoreline remained 0-0 by half-time.

The Matildas’ lack of scoring across the first 50 minutes had some fans and commentators concerned.

However, they would eventually come unstuck as the game wore on – especially from set-pieces where both Kerr and Van Egmond were able to force the ball home after the interval.

Tony Gustavsson’s side will play their final group stage game against Thailand on Friday morning (AEDT).

MIDFIELD MINEFIELD

Why try to fix what isn’t broken?

The heart of the Matildas’ struggles came in the midfield and it was no surprise this would be the case when taking into account the starting line-up, the Philippines’ intent to cede possession and force the Aussie midfielders to try to pick holes in their well-organised backline.

Emily van Egmond of Australia. Picture: Thananuwat SrirasantSource: Getty Images

Gustavsson dropped Clare Wheeler for Tameka Yallop and moved Emily van Egmond to the base of midfield – a role which has proven throughout time to under-utilise her greatest strength as a creative midfielder.

Given that the move didn’t pay dividends, it made the pre-game alteration all the more puzzling.

WE MEET AGAIN, STAJ

When the draw was released in October last year, it was the fixture that was immediately circled on the calendar.

In only his second game in charge of the Philippines, Alen Stajcic came up against his former side for the first time since being controversially sacked as coach in January 2019 only months before their Women’s World Cup campaign in France.

Head coach Alen Stajcic of the Philippines. Picture: Thananuwat SrirasantSource: Getty Images

If there was anyone to understand and decipher the Matildas playbook, it would be Stajcic, having coached the majority of the Australian squad throughout his almost five years at the helm.

— NCA Newswire

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