Superstar Sam Kerr rediscovered her international goalscoring touch, which Caitlin Foord netted a brilliant second-half brace to help celebrate teammate Clare Polkinghorne’s 150th appearance for the Matildas in style
Without a goal in her previous four Matildas’ appearances, Chelsea striker Kerr opened the scoring in the 37th minute with a close-range effort that found the back of the net via a slight deflection of Swedish defender Nathalie Bjorn.
It was Kerr’s 60th goal for the Matildas, and while it came against the run of play, it served to lift the Australians against the world’s second-ranked nation.
While the Swedes weren’t at full strength, they would have wanted a better performance ahead of next year’s Women’s World Cup, which is being co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
In contrast, the Matildas’ win – sealed by Foord’s double and a goal from substitute Mary Fowler – will increase belief that a strong 2023 World Cup performance on home soil is within their grasp.
However, Gustavsson is still searching for a complete performance from his team.
“We struggled for 30 minutes in the first half and were lucky not to be down 1-0,” Gustavsson said.
“We got way too stretched with our passing and defending, they played through us, they played around us … (but) the second half was one of the better halves that we’ve played against top opposition.”
The resounding nature of the win – as well as the clean sheet in front of more than 22,000 fans – was also the perfect way for 33-year-old central defender Polkinghorne to celebrate 150 appearances for Australia in a senior international career that started in 2006.
Should Polkinghorne – who wore the captain’s armband for the day – play on Tuesday night against Thailand in Gosford, she will join the legendary Cheryl Sainsbury as the most capped Matilda with 151.
The clean sheet was also the first time since last year’s 0-0 draw against the United States at the Tokyo Olympics that the Matildas had kept a top-10 ranked nation scoreless.
Sweden dominated the contest early, with only the woodwork saving the Matildas in the 12th minute when a stinging strike from Kerr’s Chelsea teammate Johanna Rytting Kaneryd struck the post.
The Matildas then came close to opening the scoring in the 25th minute a free-kick from defender Steph Catley that forced a smart save out of Swedish goalkeeper Zećira Mušović, another of Kerr’s Chelsea teammates.
However, Kerr’s goal 12 minutes later set the tone for the contest, with Foord’s second-half double – which included a stunning long-range strike – a continuation of her good recent form at international level.
The Arsenal forward now has five goals in her past three Matildas appearances, including back-to-back braces.
“We don’t get many opportunities to play on hone soil and I just want to enjoy every moment of that and make most of every opportunity,” Foord said.
“Being central I find the ball (a bit) more in front of goal. (there are) more opportunities to shoot and to link up with Sam (Kerr) as well, so I’m enjoying it.”
Fowler’s goal, which also came via a deflection, was the ninth time the Manchester City attacking midfielder had scored for the Matildas.