'Concerning' signs for Matildas amid injury crisis

'Concerning' signs for Matildas amid injury crisis

With just under three months until the Olympics begin, Tony Gustavsson has been hit with more injury woes, as Caitlin Foord was taken off the field with a hamstring complaint during the Matildas friendly against China.

The Matildas pulled off a remarkable comeback on Friday night in front of 53,000 fans at Adelaide Oval, with a late goal from veteran star Michelle Heyman leveling the scores at fulltime (1-1).

Foord’s cameo in the game lasted a total of 14 minutes before she was removed from the field. Medical staff have yet to announce the extent of the Arsenal star’s injury.

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Foord quickly gestured towards her hamstring after falling to the grass.

With Gustavsson opting to avoid risking further injury, he replaced the Matildas forward with Brisbane Roar’s Sharn Frier.

“I would say the vast majority of the 53,000 are quite worried that Caitlin Foord may have injured her hamstring,” Robbie Thomson said in commentary for Paramount +.

“Some concerning signs there.”

Caitlin Foord assisted from the field by trainers.

Caitlin Foord assisted from the field by trainers. Paramount Pictures

Gustavsson was sent a second fright when Clare Hunt fell to the ground after clashing heads with China’s Wu Chengshu.

A wildly spinning aerial ball from Hayley Raso was deflected by a Chinese defender before falling near the top of the box.

Hunt raced towards the ball to bat it back into play, but was soon after met with Chengshu, who sent her crashing into the ground.

Some words were exchanged between the Chinese striker and Steph Catley as Hunt was being examined by medical staff, however, play quickly resumed seconds later.

Gustavsson unleashed some familiar faces in the opening minutes of the second half, with Hayley Raso, Kyra Cooney-Cross and Ellie Carpenter all making their first appearances on home soil since their pre-season friendlies.

Clare Hunt and Wu Chengshu clash heads.

Clare Hunt and Wu Chengshu clash heads. Paramount Pictures

“The Matildas are starting show a little more urgency,” Thomson said.

The Aussies made eight shots at goal in the second half, with two shots fired at goalkeeper Xu Huan by Mary Fowler.

With five seconds remaining of injury time, the Matildas capitalised on a free kick just outside China’s box with a deflected ball by the keeper landing in front of Heyman, who sent to the ball into the back of the net.

“We wanted to continue to have the never-say-die attitude,” Heyman told Paramount +.

“We needed to move the ball a bit quicker, it wasn’t our best performance.”

Ante Milicic’s China took a a 1-nil lead into the break but the Matildas have hitback early in the second half.

After a slow start to the game, Gustavsson has made five changes with some familiar faces taking to the field including Hayley Raso, Ellie Carpenter, Kyra Cooney-Cross and Steph Catley. 

“The Matildas are starting show a little more urgency in this half,” Thomson said.

Australia dominated in possession in the opening 30 minutes however have been unable to break through China’s defence, with the home side favourites yet to register a single shot on or off target.

Central Coast Mariners forward Wurigumula outmuscled young Matildas defender Kaitlyn Torpey just inside the box before sending a beautiful cross through to Zhang Linyan, who found the back of the net.

Despite appeals from the Aussies for a professional foul on Torpey, who remained on the ground following the goal, China has taken over control.

Charlotte Grant attempts to stop China PR first goal.

Charlotte Grant attempts to stop China PR first goal. Getty

“They don’t look like themselves tonight. This is not the Matildas in recent games we have come to admire and enjoy watching the performances,” Andy Harper said on Paramount+.

“The Aussies just didn’t cause them much trouble at all and that’s a point of concern.

“The Matildas’ biggest problem is self-created. The position has been sluggish, the players have been slow, and the individual technique too often at times has let the whole movement down.

“China have looked very dangerous in the transition.”

China appealed to officials following what appeared to be a tactical injury timeout from star keeper Mackenzie Arnold, with all fielded Matildas rushing to the sidelines to restructure their formation and study Gustavsson’s plan.

“We just saw Tony Gustavsson… He was screaming instructions at his players a couple of minutes ago and he was to try and show some kind of tactical change,” Thomson said.

“Mackenzie Arnold has gone down holding her hamstring and [Gustavsson] is quite clearly trying to get a tactical message out to the rest of the Matildas squad.

Mackenzie Arnold goalkeeper of Australia is helped by team medical staff.

Mackenzie Arnold goalkeeper of Australia is helped by team medical staff. Getty

“As soon as the referee stopped play, [they] came charging across to the whiteboard and there you can see it so let’s try and fix what is not working at the moment.

“The Matildas have struggled to impose their game so far on a Chinese decided that is defensive, but not any more than that. They have still had a couple of chances. They are looking to break forward.”

Niav Owens added in commentary: “The Chinese are not happy about it. They are calling it unsportsmanlike behaviour.”

Arnold showed no signs of injury after returning to her feet but was unable to save a fierce strike from Linyan.

Speaking with Ten following the match, Gustavsson expressed his pride in his team’s resilience in the second half, however, also acknowledged early concerns regarding the Matildas sluggish start to the match.

“It was DNA of this team, the never say die attitude. The crowd didn’t give up on them as well and it is also classic Michelle Heyman,” he said.

Tony Gustavsson, Head Coach of Australia, reacts after Michelle Heyman equalized during the international friendly match.

Tony Gustavsson, Head Coach of Australia, reacts after Michelle Heyman equalized during the international friendly match. Getty

“What was delivered today is controlling the tempo but made it too slow. That is not us. We want to go from so divisive that we can withdraw them, now changing the tempo and then we do not see enough change of tempo tonight.

Gustavsson confirmed he is unsure to what extent Foord’s injury is but remains hopeful she will be OK to return.

“That is one of the reasons we kept them on the bench to minimise the minutes but also to minimise the risk,” Gustavsson said.

“How serious? I don’t know but she said she felt something and at this point you do not push through. It is all about getting ready.

“Get out healthy and work on a plan to come back fit into life so we did not want to take a risk.”

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