Australia see off brave Thailand on penalties

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Australia survived a real scare to book their place in the final of the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup as they beat Thailand on penalties following a 2-2 draw in the semi-finals on Tuesday.

It was the Matildas who opened the scoring in the 17th minute when Thailand’s Kanjanaporn Saengkoon botched an attempt at a headed clearance, only succeeding in helping the ball into the back of her own net.

But, three minutes later, Kanjana Sung-Ngoen equalised for the Thais when she spotted Mackenzie Arnold off her line and attempted a bold lob, that was fumbled by the Matildas keeper over the line.

Although the Thais entered the match as huge underdogs, they then found themselves ahead in the 63rd minute following more comical defending by the opposition.

After squandering multiple attempts to clear their lines, Arnold then completely scuffed a clearance to put her team back under pressure with the ball eventually breaking Rattikan Thongsombut, who dispatched a left-footed shot into the top corner.

By now, Thailand were on the verge of a monumental victory but they were dealt a huge blow with three minutes remaining when Wilaiporn Boothduang was sent off for a second bookable offence.

In the first minute of injury-time, the numerical difference proved telling as Alanna Kennedy was left unmarked inside the area to meet Elise Kellond-Knight’s corner with a thumping header into the back of the net, forcing extra-time in the process.

With both teams unable to find the breakthrough in the additional 30 minutes, largely owing to some determined and desperate defending by Thailand, it was then left to the lottery of the shootout to decide the outcome of the first semi-final.

Again, Thailand found themselves in a good position when Emily van Egmond missed the first spot-kick, which was immediately followed by a successful conversion from Ainon Phancha.

However, Arnold then made amends for her earlier errors by making three consecutive saves from Sunisa Srangthaisong, Silawan Intamee and Pitsamai Sornsai, paving the way of Sam Kerr to convert the Matildas’ fifth penalty and send them into Friday’s final.