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Sam Kerr; Aussie star locks in big new deal at Chelsea

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Matildas captain Sam Kerr has resisted any urges to come home and extended her contract with Chelsea until 2024, declaring she “can’t see myself going anywhere else”.

The 28-year-old Australian star has scored 39 goals in 47 games for Chelsea since joining the club midway through the 2019 season, and the move will give Kerr stability at club level for the lead-in to the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

“It’s really exciting,” Kerr said.

“I’m really happy at the club. We’ve had good success. Being at a club like Chelsea is an amazing opportunity. The time was just right. I feel really comfortable being here.

“I think the club gives me every opportunity to succeed as a player. I can’t see myself going anywhere else in the world or leaving Europe, having what I have at Chelsea.”

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Kerr won the Golden Boot for the Women’s Super League 2020/21 season with 21 goals in 22 matches, an accolade she has won twice before as top scorer in the US and Australia, making her the first player to win it across three different leagues in three different continents.

But Kerr said she played for team results, not individual awards.

‘I don’t go out there to win golden boots, I just go out there to give everything I can to the team and help the team to succeed and win trophies,” she said.

‘I’m not going to lie, it’s nice when I do win them but that’s not my main goal at the start of the year. It’s a nice reward, but if I won golden boot after golden boot and no trophies, it wouldn’t be that rewarding to me.

‘So that’s why last season winning the Golden Boot and winning the league was really rewarding because finally it meant something.’

Kerr has made a strong start to the new season, scoring six times in seven outings to be the WSL’s equal-top goalscorer.

Chelsea sits second on the table, one point behind Arsenal, who they will face in the FA Cup final on December 5.

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Eight Man Utd stars got worse under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Cristiano Ronaldo call costly

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Manchester United had several players go down a level under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

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Score, news, result, VAR, Mitch Duke, video, highlights, result, standings, penalty

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The Socceroos’ World Cup qualification hopes took another massive blow in the early hours of Wednesday morning after slipping to a 1-1 draw with China in the UAE.

16 years and a handful of hours after the Socceroos ended a 32-year wait for qualification to football’s biggest stage on that iconic night against Uruguay, the Australians are now in severe danger of falling short in their bid for a fifth-straight World Cup appearance.

After defeat to Japan and a goalless draw at home to group leaders Saudi Arabia, the Socceroos looked set to return to winning ways as they dominated much of the match and scored late in the first half through a Mitch Duke header following Australia’s 15th attempted cross of the match.

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China and Australia go head-to-head | 00:39

Australia maintained control in the second stanza and looked to be cruising toward victory as they comfortably held possession, despite rarely threatening the China goal.

Then the match turned on its head in the 70th minute when VAR intervened, calling on the referee to review a potential Australian handball in the box. A cross from a deep-lying set piece had struck Jimmy Jeggo’s raised arm, and Wu Lei made no mistake from the spot as he levelled the scores.

China had the better chances of the half as both sides desperately hunted victory, while Graham Arnold’s raft of substitutes made precious little impact as the match slipped away to a disappointing draw.

With four games to play, the Socceroos are now five points behind unbeaten Saudi Arabia and one behind Japan, who leapfrogged Australia with a 1-0 win over Oman overnight. The top two teams automatically qualify, while the third-placed team faces an Asian play-off then an intercontinental play-off – the nervous route Australia took to qualify for Russia 2018.

World Cup qualifying pauses until late January, with Australia to host Vietnam and then play away to Oman a few days later, before the deciding matches in late March which will see the Socceroos host Japan and play away to Saudi Arabia.

Australia captain Mat Ryan said: “Disappointing, I don’t think we did enough tonight. Didn’t create enough clear-cut chances. Obviously there is probably a controversial talking point (the penalty) but there are other moments throughout the game where we need to be better… It hurts tonight but it’s all about the response.”

Aussies cop tough VAR decision | 01:05

Goalscorer Duke said: “Yeah frustrating, always, when you go one nil up and you concede and go in with a draw.

“It’s always special (to score) but frustrating that we did not get the win. It is one of my strengths – crosses and using my head – and I was lucky enough to get on the end of a great cross from Boylie (Martin Boyle) but it was not enough to secure the three points and I have got to make sure I can help and score more goals.

“We have got to brush this off and make sure we focus on the remaining four games and finish strong, maximum points out of the remaining games and feel confident we can get the job done.”

AUSTRALIA vs CHINA — MATCH CENTRE: Lineups, full stats and timeline

China's forward Wu Lei (L) levelled the scores.
China’s forward Wu Lei (L) levelled the scores.Source: AFP

FULL REPORT

China’s trio of naturalised Brazilians started the match for the first time together in the third stage of World Cup qualification, and it took just three minutes for Alan to force a Mat Ryan save when he blasted across goal from an extremely tight angle.

Martin Boyle responded four minutes later with a beautiful curling cross from the edge of the area, but the runners didn’t arrive on the edge of the six-yard area.

Just one minute afterwards, Australia had a golden opportunity to open the scoring when Aziz Behich played a square ball from the side of the area to midfielder Jackson Irvine, who – in a near carbon-copy of the Socceroos’ best opportunity against Saudi Arabia – couldn’t guide his shot on target.

Mitch Duke broke the deadlock against China.Source: Channel 10

Soon afterwards Mat Leckie controlled a Boyle cross in the centre of the box and turned and struck quickly, but straight into the palms of China keeper Yan Junling.

While Australia quickly settled into possession, China were proving dangerous on the counter-attack. the 18th minute provided another huge scare in defensive transition. As Ai Kesen charged towards goal in pursuit of a long ball, Mat Ryan was caught near the edge of his box and opted to head it – but only found Lu Wei whose volley was sprayed wide of the open net.

The Socceroos were happy to bomb crosses into the box, but – like against Saudi Arabia – it was largely ineffectual, until Boyle delightfully dipped a ball to the front post and Duke rose highest to head it down past the keeper in the 38th minute. It was the 15th Australian cross of the game to that stage.

The advantage was nearly doubled when the Socceroos broke quickly in the 43rd minute and Hrustic crossed well to Leckie, whose first touch gave Chinese gloveman Junling just enough time to close down Leckie’s resulting strike from close range.

China’s defence had shown plenty of desperation with their World Cup dreams on the brink of disappearing beyond reach, but copped a severe blow when centre-back Tyias Browning – who had earlier made a brilliant diving challenge to rob Martin Boyle in the box – was forced off with a pulled hamstring on the brink of halftime.

Irvine’s near-identical missed chances | 00:28

Australia started the second half somewhat more languidly as the pace of the game slowed. But like the first period, the Socceroos again settled after a nervous first quarter of an hour.

Early in the second stanza, Hrustic played Aziz Behich through on goal with a well-weighted through ball, but a defender beat him to the mark by a hair. Hrustic’s influence was growing, and he shimmied into space in the 58th minute before lobbing a ball through to an on-rushing Leckie in the box, who couldn’t control the ball under pressure.

Graham Arnold was far from pleased at the result.Source: Channel 10

The Socceroos had moved away from crossing. Still, they often lacked incisiveness in the final third, instead choosing to recycle possession and force China to chase the game.

Then the match turned in a moment as VAR called the referee back to examine a potential penalty incident with 20 minutes remaining. Graham Arnold was stunned, repeatedly asking: “What? What?” But from a deep China free kick, the ball had struck Jeggo’s raised arm as he leapt to head the ball away – and the referee rightly called it a handball. Mat Ryan dove the wrong way as Wu Lei blasted home from the spot. Wu Lei’s goal meant he had scored in a third-straight game and 12 in 14 games during this World Cup qualification campaign.

Former Australian striker Andy Harper was shocked by the decision, saying in commentary: “They should send the VAR through to the lab to split the atom because they have just split the hair. I’m dumbfounded, to be honest.”

Jimmy Jeggo gave away a penalty for handball following a VAR intervention.Source: Channel 10

Duke was taken off for Jamie Maclaren after the goal, while wingers Awer Mabil and Riley McGree were introduced six minutes later for Leckie and Hrustic. Fran Karacic replaced Rhyan Grant at right back in the 83rd minute, with 34-year-old striker Nikita Rukavytsya replacing Martin Boyle.

But Arnold’s attempts to wrest back momentum had little effect. Karacic played in a good cross but was woefully beaten one-on-one in defence, while Mabil was the only other player to make any sort of impact in the final minutes. Australia reverted to launching crosses into the area, which almost inevitably fell to the men in red shirts.

There was a late flashpoint as Milos Degenek butted heads – literally – with China substitute Zhang Yuning. Degenek fell to the turf and both players were handed yellow cards, which could well have been red cards.

But time soon expired on a disappointing night in Sharjah.

Milos Degenek butted heads with a China substitute.Source: Channel 10

TEAM NEWS

Australia was without rising star defender Harry Souttar after he ruptured his ACL against the Saudis.

Red Star Belgrade defender Milos Degenek replaced him during the match and started against China, while fellow central defender Trent Sainsbury overcame a hamstring niggle after playing the full 90 minutes against Saudi Arabia.

Besides Degenek’s forced introduction, Arnold opted for just one other change to the team that drew with the Green Falcons: Mitch Duke started at centre-forward, with Mat Leckie shifted to the wing and Awer Mabil dropped to the bench. Martin Boyle featured as the other winger.

Besides that, Rhyan Grant and Aziz Behich lined up at fullback with veteran keeper Mat Ryan wearing the captain’s armband. And Jimmy Jeggo and Jackson Irvine played at the base of a midfield triangle and Ajdin Hrustic in a more attacking central role.

STARTING XI: Ryan (GK, C); Grant, Sainsbury, Degenek, Behich; Jeggo, Irvine, Hrustic; Leckie, Boyle, Duke

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Socceroos vs China, FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers, AFC, scores, results, news, player ratings, Mat Ryan, Milos Degenek, Ajdin Hrustic, highlights

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The Socceroos slumped to a third consecutive World Cup qualifier without victory in a 1-1 stalemate with China on Wednesday morning.

Milos Degenek, replacing injured central defender Harry Souttar, put to rest many of the serious doubts over how Australia would cope without the towering Scottish-born rising star.

And while Mitch Duke found the net and staked his claim to be the regular starting striker, it was a dismal night for Graham Arnold’s five substitutes.

Here’s how every player performed in the disappointing draw.

REPORT: Brutal VAR burns Socceroos in China draw with World Cup dream under dark cloud

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China and Australia go head-to-head | 00:39

AUSTRALIA vs CHINA — MATCH CENTRE: Stats, video, line-ups and more

Mat Ryan: 7.5

Forced to do more than he’d like, he patrolled his box well and made several good sweeping plays to clear danger. But he could easily have been punished for a diving header that fell to Wu Lei who missed the open goal. Could do nothing about the same player’s well-taken penalty.

Rhyan Grant: 5

Faced a serious competitor in the tough Aloisio but won the physical battle more often than not. Got forward well but struggled to deliver a decent cross.

Trent Sainsbury: 5.5

Once again good defensively, with crucial interceptions and tackles, he played with characteristic toughness. Slapped himself in the face after one poor pass in China’s half sailed straight out for a throw. And it nearly got worse when he headed a ball back towards goal only for it nearly to be intercepted, though he was rescued by Mat Ryan’s desperate scrambling.

Aussies cop tough VAR decision | 01:05

Milos Degenek: 7.5

Degenek looked comfortable alongside Sainsbury and hardly put a foot wrong all game, outmuscling his opponents and passing confidently – which was especially crucial going forward as he assumed the main ball-playing role in Harry Souttar’s absence. Was clearly energised at being back in the starting XI, as his stoppage-time stoush showed.

Aziz Behich: 6.5

Dangerous down the left, especially a brilliant driven cross along the six yard line in the 36th minute that should have been punished but found only defenders waiting. He crossed relatively well all game but was guilty of a couple of poor shots form range.

James Jeggo: 6.5

Without his unlucky handball that turned the match, you could count it as another fine game for the defensive midfielder. Graham Arnold’s tactic of having Jeggo drop deep in possession, regularly forming a three-man central defensive partnership, allowed the fullbacks to push forward. Jeggo was very good defensively, breaking up play regularly and retrieving loose balls, and he distributed extremely well – missing just one of a game-high 63 pass attempts. The penalty was unfortunate but the correct call, and he had given away the foul that led to the set-piece cross in the first place.

Jackson Irvine: 5.5

Irvine played reasonably, bossing the midfield for much of the game with his toughness and hard tackling (though he perhaps gave away a couple fouls too many in the process). But he missed an absolute sitter, just as he did against Saudi Arabia. And it was in almost identical fashion – fed a square ball from the left, and poking it well wide of the back post. Had he scored that early chance, the game could easily have been very different. Struggled to make an impact in the final third, although he fed Martin Boyle the ball for him to set up the only Australian goal.

Irvine’s near-identical missed chances | 00:28

Ajdin Hrustic: 6

Gave the ball away too regularly in the middle of the park – a rarity for the brilliant passer – which China pounced on and counterattacked with pace and directness.

But some of his passes were superb and weren’t rewarded as they should have been. That included brilliant searching balls which put Behich and Mat Leckie through into the box, though both chances were spurned. He created space for himself in the midfield and was positive going forward.

Mat Leckie: 5.5

It was often a case of his boots not following the brain’s instructions in this game. He made intelligent runs to get in good positions but couldn’t make them count. His final touch and his shooting were poor. Lively down the wing.

Martin Boyle: 7

Brilliant in the first half, his crosses were almost always the most dangerous of Australia’s balls into the box thanks to his movement behind China’s defence. Got a deserved assist for a pinpoint cross, and made dangerous runs into the box – one drew a goal-saving sliding tackle, another run without the ball saw him in prime position to tap in a Behich pass which never came.

Leckie was lively but couldn’t convert decent chances.
Leckie was lively but couldn’t convert decent chances.Source: AFP

Mitchell Duke: 8

So often the bridesmaid (or in this case the substitute) of Australia’s striking corps, Duke was given a rare chance to start and made it count with a well-taken finish – his fifth in 2021. Service into the box wasn’t always great, so his chances were limited, but his immense workrate on and off the ball lifted the level of the Socceroos’ defensive pressure.

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SUBSTITUTES

Jamie Maclaren: 4

Almost invisible, looked a little rusty from the lack of game time. Didn’t manage a shot.

Fran Karacic: 5

Woefully beaten one-on-one by Wu Xinghan in the 87th minute, though the Chinese wide man overhit his cross after charging into the box. Karacic made some amends a minute or two later when he beat a defender and whipped in a dangerous cross.

Riley McGree: 3

Touched the ball twice in 14 minutes. Enough said.

Awer Mabil: 5.5

Provided a little spark but couldn’t make an impact.

Nikita Rukavytsya: 4

Attempted three passes, made one. Poor.

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