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Australia tops Japan to go unbeaten again at Tournament of Nations

(Photo Copyright Joerdeli Photography | Daniela Porcelli)

In a repeat of this year’s Asia Cup final in Jordan, it was Australia who were able to achieve a small chunk of revenge with a 2-0 win over Japan thanks to goals from Alanna Kennedy and Sam Kerr.

The win ensured Australia ended the 2018 edition of the Tournament of Nations unbeaten, but would have to wait for the conclusion of the United States-Brazil match to see if they would retain their title.

Both the Aussies and Japan looked to gain early momentum, but were unable to create many clear-cut chances in the opening 10 minutes, with only long-range efforts from Japan’s Emi Nakajima and Australia’s Kyah Simon worth noting.

Nakajima tried her luck again when she let fly from 25 yards on 14 minutes, but her driven effort failed to trouble Lydia Williams in the Matildas’ goal.

The energetic Ellie Carpenter had Australia’s best effort of the first half an hour, but much like the half-chances in the first third of the match, her effort was straight at Chika Hirao after doing well to cut inside and create space on the left side of the area.

Japan showed some nice touches in the middle of the park and almost got in behind the Australian defense a handful of times, but they found a rock in front of them in the shape of Kennedy, who did well to snuff out a few dangerous balls that could have proved costly if she hadn’t.

First-half sub Emily Gielnik had arguably Australia’s best chance of the half after Hirao punched a Hayley Raso cross into her path, but Gielnik lacked the composure needed as she lashed her shot wide of the right-hand post.

The first half was one of frustration for both sides, with few truly exciting moments for those in attendance. A late Kumi Yokoyama free kick from distance in the 41st minute was the only notable effort on target; that forced a comfortable punch over the bar from Williams.

The brilliant Kennedy, who had been so influential at the back, was the player that eventually broke the deadlock less than two minutes into the second half.

Miura brought downKerr on the left corner of the box, Kennedy stepped up to take the resulting kick, and was able to beat Hirao at her near post to give Australia the lead on 47 minutes.

Kerr, who had had a quiet first half, almost made it two for the Matildas on 53 minutes when she found space in the area to connect with a beautifully floated Gielnik cross, but her header pinged back off the left post.

Mana Iwabuchi, who was surprisingly left out of the starting line-up and brought on at halftime, immediately responded a minute later up the other end with a curling effort from the edge of the box, but her shot was deflected wide for a corner.

Kerr went close again with a header on 65 minutes, but found Hirao in the way as she saved to her left, before Iwabuchi again went close after a rasping effort from the right corner of the box six minutes later.

Japan huffed and puffed but were always vulnerable to Australia’s pace on the counter, and on 81 minutes, it was game over.

Kyah Simon played a through ball that Hirao came charging out to clear. Kerr’s pace saw her reach the ball first, and she was able to round the Japan keeper and slot into the empty net.

The final 10 minutes saw Japan try to claim a consolation, but Australia’s defense stood firm and for the second Tournament of Nations, the Matildas ended the competition unbeaten. Japan has not won in six games over the two tournaments.

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