A late goal has denied the Matildas what would have been a remarkable turnaround victory, forced to settle for a 1-1 draw with Portugal in light of their humbling seven-goal loss to Spain on Sunday.
Battling an intense breeze in Estoril, both sides struggled to make a mark on the scoreboard in the first half as several scoring opportunities went awry, including a horrific close-range miss on the brink of halftime from the hosts.
The Matildas were spared a red card in the second half after a terrible error from the referee, who handed the wrong Australian player a yellow card.
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Defender Courtney Nevin was already on a yellow card and would have been sent off had the referee correctly attributed a clear foul on the edge of the box. The infringement was instead blamed on teammate Charlotte Grant.
Needing a change in pace up-front, forward Princess Ibini-Isei was brought into the match. The injection of speed proved the difference as she broke the deadlock in the 73rd minute, jabbing a low Emily Gielnik cross at the back post.
The goal was her first for the national team and Australia’s only goal for the game.
Just like on Sunday, manager Tony Gustavsson backed the side put on the park, making only one substitution in the second half in an attempt to push for a second goal.
However, three minutes later, the Portuguese finally forced a way through as striker Telma Encarnacao controlled the cross from the right flank, swivelling her body toward the goal, before nestling her shot into the bottom-left corner.
Encarnacao was clearly offside, but the goal stood with no VAR in use for the friendly match.
The goal was a dagger to the heart of goalkeeper Lydia Williams, who had been outstanding in her 100th cap, making several key saves and collections in high-pressure moments – alongside the added stress of donning the captain’s armband in Sam Kerr’s absence.
While the result is an improvement from the humiliating display against the Spaniards, Gustavsson had “mixed emotions” about his side’s performance.
“I’m very disappointed that we lost this game, considering we were up one-nil with very few minutes left,” he said post-match.
“We talked about game management, time management, smart decisions on the ball. We should’ve got away with a win, but we had a little bit of an inexperienced team on the field and that’s the tough learning when you make a mistake like that [conceding].”
The result against Portugal rounds out the Matildas’ June international window, with the squad now looking to two matches on home soil in early September against Canada.
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