Gielnik, Raso on target as Westfield Matildas cruise past New Zealand

Hayley Raso scored on her Westfield Matildas return as Australia defeated New Zealand 2-0 in Thursday’s Cup of Nations clash at Leichhardt Oval.

Six months after breaking her back in a National Women’s Soccer League match for Portland Thorns, the 24-year-old attacker needed just three second half minutes to step off the bench to double Australia’s advantage.

Emily Gielnik had earlier opened proceedings with a measured curling strike shortly before half time as the Westfield Matildas handed Ante Milicic a Cup of Nations win brimming with promise.

Milicic’s side began to assert their dominance midway through the first half and after watching Elise Kellond-Knight rip a free-kick against the crossbar, Kiwi shot stopper Erin Nayler was forced into several important interventions.

Nayler pulled off a strong stop at the near post to deny Sam Kerr’s header before dashing out excellently to smother the forward, who had streaked in on goal after Caitlin Foord’s excellent release.

RE-LIVE: All the action from Cup of Nations match day one
CUP OF NATIONS: Five-star Korea Republic thump Argentina

Emily van Egmond should’ve broken the deadlock after some glorious interchange on the left between Steph Catley and Foord but Gielnik made no mistake with Australia’s next chance, stroking a lovely curling effort into the corner after Catley’s cross was headed to the edge of the box.

The Football Ferns – coached by former Westfield Matildas boss Tomi Sermanni – played patiently on the counter attack where the darting runs of Sarah Gregorius offered promise, and it was a lovely run from the diminutive New Zealand attacker which produced the Kiwis’ best chance of the match.

Unfortunately for Gregorius, she could only watch her attempted lob of Australian goalkeeper Lydia Williams bounce wide after catching the Westfield Matildas defence off guard.

Tameka Butt then hit the woodwork with a lofted effort of her own and Gielnik saw the resulting header cleared off the line as Australia pressed for a match-sealing second.

It came within minutes of Raso’s first Westfield Matildas appearance since the 2018 Tournament of Nations, and the first since her injury heartbreak.

The Brisbane Roar attacker collected a lovely pass from fellow substitute Amy Harrison before swerving and dispatching a powerful effort past Nayler to seal her third goal for Australia.