Matildas beat China 2-0 | news.com.au — Australia’s leading news site

Substitutes Clare Wheeler and Cortnee Vine made a crucial impact from the bench as the Matildas bid farewell to Australia before heading to the Paris Olympics with a 2-0 win over China on Monday night.

In front of more than 76,000 fans at Sydney’s Accor Stadium, the Matildas produced a better attacking performance than they displayed in last Friday’s 1-1 draw against the same opponent at Adelaide Oval.

However, they had to wait until after the break to break China’s resistance, with Wheeler and Vine key factors in the victory after entering the contest early in the second half.

Midfielder Wheeler, coming on for Emily van Egmond, gave the hosts the lead in the 48th minute after timing her run to perfection to be first from Steph Catley’s well-placed free-kick.

Sydney FC star Vine, who replaced striker Michelle Heyman, provided the assist for Australia’s second goal in the 56th minute.

Her perfect through ball found Hayley Raso, who rounded goalkeeper Xu Huan before steering the ball home.

China had a couple of opportunities to get back into the game but they were handled comfortably by Matildas goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold, who came on late in the first half for Lydia Williams.

The Matildas should have taken the lead in the 11th minute with a chance created by right-back Ellie Carpenter, who mesmerized the Chinese defense with a stunning turn before bursting into the penalty area and delivering a low cross that Wu Haiyan missed managed to repel adequately.

The ball fell invitingly for the unmarked Tameka Yallop, but the Brisbane Roar star launched her shot and failed to test keeper Xu.

However, Xu was called into action five minutes later, rising to deny Matilda winger Hayley Raso, who should have done better with her chance.

But Raso made amends after the break with the winning goal as the Australians did more than enough to carry their winning form to Paris.

“We wanted to show up, we wanted to win the game, we wanted to put on a show, so we went out and did a little better than the last game,” Raso told Network 10.

The Matildas’ squad for the Olympics will be announced on Tuesday, but the players were informed before Monday night’s match whether they had been selected.

Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson said it was a bittersweet experience telling players whether they had been selected for the Olympics or left out.

“Two extremes obviously. For some it’s devastating news and it really breaks my heart to have to say it, but you need to be honest and real and authentic and have a good support system,” she said.

Goodbye Lydia

In her 104th and most likely final appearance for the Matildas, veteran goalkeeper Lydia Williams started the match and wore the captain’s armband.

Emotional before the match when she was honored in a ceremony involving Australian sports great Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Williams remained composed during her time on the pitch despite the crowd roaring every time she touched the ball.

She then received a hero’s farewell when she was replaced by Australian starting goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold in the 43rd minute.

After handing the skipper’s armband to Steph Catley, Williams was hugged by all of her teammates as she left the field.

The hugs continued even when she reached the sideline, where she shared a special moment with Arnold, at the end of which she was cuddled by coach Tony Gustavsson and the entire Matildas bench.

Williams has announced that she will retire from international football after the next Olympic Games.

“Getting this far has been incredible,” Williams said.

We will know on Tuesday whether she will be selected in Australia’s 18-man squad for Paris, or whether she will be among the four traveling reserves.

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