Australia 1-0 Ireland: Catley secures three points from the penalty spot

Just hours before the second match of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicked off in Sydney, Australia’s Sam Kerr took to social media to announce that she’d miss out on the first two group stage games, having sustained a calf injury in training. While the news would hamper Australia’s attacking output, the Republic of Ireland could feel confident as their chances of pulling off an upset on their major tournament debut were boosted.

AUS: Arnold; Catley, Kennedy, Hunt, Carpenter; Vine, Cooney-Cross, Gorry, Raso; Fowler, Foord

IRL: Brosnan; Connolly, Quinn, Fahey; McCabe, Littlejohn, O’Sullivan, Payne; Sheva, Carusa, Farrelly

Early on, Ellie Carpenter showed signs of being the spark in this Australian side – surging down the right flank just moments before an attempt to play in Caitlin Foord with a defence-splitting long ball.

It looked as though Kyra Carusa had been played through on goal with a beautiful through ball from Katie McCabe after 20 minutes, but the pass slightly lacked power, leaving the forward entangled in a tough fight for possession amidst this resolute Australian backline.

The Girls in Green were growing into the game, dominating spells of play as they continued to flock forwards in search of an opener. Specifically, the left flank looked promising – with Marissa Sheva’s deliveries capable of causing problems for the hosts.

Australia’s best chances of the first half came deep into stoppage time, but a last-ditch clearance on the byline from Heather Payne ensured the match remained goalless at the interval. For all their chances, neither side had really been able to establish themselves in the game – and the football on display was far from world class.

Yet the Aussies were provided with a golden ticket to take the lead just minutes into the second half, as Sheva shoved Raso to the ground inside the area. Steph Catley’s effort was hit with power and precision, leaving Brosnan with little chance of making the save as she thundered the hosts into the lead.

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McCabe looked to create an opportunity for the Girls in Green from a corner, but her curling ball was punched away from danger well by Mackenzie Arnold under pressure. Ireland had seemed somewhat demoralised after conceding the penalty, but as time grew on, Vera Pauw’s side began to grow into the game once more – exploiting the space in wide areas to progress forwards.

Yet there was to be seemingly one final chance for the Republic of Ireland, as Clare Hunt lept over Lucy Quinn – forcing the Irish star to the ground on the edge of the box. Megan Connolly’s delivery settled on the roof of the net though, cueing a series of corners though the visitors still couldn’t find a way to equalise.

But in the last minute, Ireland had their best chances of the game. Katie McCabe wasn’t able to sort her feet out in time though, squandering a phenomenal opportunity to level the match just seconds before Lucy Quinn’s header was sent off target.

Ireland’s first game at a major tournament ends in defeat – and it’s Australia that take all three points to soar to the top of Group B. Steph Catley made the difference from the penalty spot, after Hayley Raso was hauled to the ground by Marissa Sheva.

Group B action resumes at 3:30am UK time on Friday, 21 July as Nigeria face Canada. Ireland’s next match will be against Canada on July 26, while Australia will look to secure another win against Nigeria on July 27.

FromTheSpot will be bringing you coverage of every game throughout the FIFA Women’s World Cup, including previews and detailed reports. We’ll cover games in the buildup to the tournament too, so you can get a feel for the potential favourites ahead of action getting underway in Australia and New Zealand.

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