New Australia women’s football boss gets off to flying start

Australia’s women football players pose for a team group photo before a match. (Reuters pic)

SYDNEY: New Australia boss Ante Milicic got his reign off to a flying start Thursday with the Matildas beating New Zealand 2-0 as both teams build towards the World Cup this year.

Emily Gielnik snatched the opener just before half-time and substitute Hayley Raso doubled the score with 15 minutes left at the inaugural four-team Cup of Nations round-robin tournament in Sydney.

Earlier, South Korea thumped 36th ranked Argentina 5-0.

The Koreans got on the scoresheet after barely three minutes with a powerful shot from Moon Mira before four second-half strikes, including a brace from Ji Soyun and goals by Lee So-dam and Son Hwa-yeon, completed the rout.

All four teams have qualified for the World Cup in France, with Australia, ranked six in the world, seen as a genuine chance to lift the trophy.

Thursday’s result was never in doubt, on paper at least. New Zealand, 19 in the world and coached by former Matildas boss Tom Sermanni, had remarkably not beaten their trans-Tasman neighbours since 1994 in a spell spanning 27 games.

Australia was dominant in the first half and almost went in front when Elise Kellond-Knight rattled the crossbar from a free kick.

But they had to wait until a minute before the break to get their just reward when the New Zealand defence could only scramble a Steph Catley cross clear as far as Gielnik, who curled the ball into the corner of the net.

Sarah Gregorius had a golden opportunity to equalise midway through the second half, only to see her lob of goalkeeper Lydia Williams bounce agonisingly wide of the goalpost.

Raso put the result beyond doubt when she rounded a defender and drilled the ball into the net on 75 minutes.

Australia next play South Korea in Brisbane on Sunday while Argentina look to bounce against New Zealand.