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Women's Asian Cup, Group B: Australia down Thailand to stay perfect

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Mumbai, Jan 27 (IANS) Australia secured top spot in Group B of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup India 2022 after defeating Thailand 2-1 here on Thursday.

While Thailand tasted defeat on the night, Miyo Okamoto’s side also advanced to the quarter-finals, where they will face Japan on Sunday, while Australia will cross paths with Korea Republic.

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Emily van Egmond opened the scoring for Australia in the 39th minute and Kerr came off the bench to score poacher’s effort before Nipawan Panyosuk netted a memorable consolation goal.

With Kerr, Ellie Carpenter and Caitlin Foord among those benched, Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson made wholesale changes to the side that beat the Philippines 4-0 on Monday.

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A starting line-up filled with youngsters had the same dominance of possession enjoyed by the Matildas in their previous two matches, but Thailand offered fewer defensive deficiencies to exploit, remaining resolute and keeping the group leaders at bay for the first 30 minutes.

While the Thais themselves were limited to ambitious long-range efforts on the counterattack, Australia began to build momentum as the half went on, and their efforts were rewarded six minutes before the interval, when Egmond took her tally to five goals for the tournament by picking out the bottom corner of Tiffany Sornpao’s net from 20 yards following Remy Siemsen’s pass.

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One could quickly have become two had it not been for Pikul Khueanpet’s goal-saving block to deny Kyra Cooney-Cross three minutes later, with the Thai defender bravely keeping the ball out when the Melbourne Victory youngster looked odds on to score.

With the score at 1-0 at the break, both teams looked good to advance to the knockout stage, but there were struggles for each of them early in the second half.

The Matildas suffered a blow when youngster Holly McNamara suffered what appeared to be a knee injury, while Thailand saw their best chance of the night go begging when Suchawadee Nildhamrong intercepted the otherwise impressive Cortnee Vine’s throw-in within sight of goal but took too long to pull the trigger before being closed down.

Goalkeeper Sorpnao made a fine reflex save to deny Remy Siemsen a first international goal just after the hour mark, and substitutes Mary Fowler and Kyah Simon before both saw gilt-edged opportunities go to waste as space in the Thai became increasingly available late in the game.

Instrumental for much of the night in keeping Thailand in the contest, it was Sornpao’s mistake that provided Australia’s second goal spilling Simon’s cross directly into the path of substitute Kerr in the 80th minute, with the Chelsea star never likely to pass up the chance to score her seventh goal of the tournament from point blank range.

Thailand had offered little going forward, but they celebrated their progression to the last eight in style with one of the final kicks of the match, with substitute Panyosuk lobbing an audacious 25-yard effort beyond Lydia Williams in the third minute of stoppage time.

–IANS

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