History-making Westfield Matildas win delights crowd but puts Milicic on edge
Ante Milicic believes the Westfield Matildas deserved their win on a historic week for women’s football but the head coach wants more comfortable viewing next time.
After a historic Collective Bargaining Agreement closed the gender pay gap for Australia’s national teams, the Westfield Matildas smashed their home attendance record in front of 20,029 fans at Bankwest Stadium.
Sam Kerr starred as Australia clinched a 2-1 victory against Chile in Sydney with the Captain’s goals on three and 72 minutes putting Milicic’s side in a commanding position.
But the South Americans hit back through Camila Saez during the closely-fought final stages, keeping the head coach on the edge of his seat until the final whistle.
“For the majority of the game we were decent and in control but, at the same time, I felt the game should have been over a lot earlier,” said Milicic.
“Until we understand and we can do that, we won’t be able to improve at the level we want to.
“Having periods of 10 or so minutes where we turn the game into transition, it gets stretched and to have a nervous last 10 minutes is unnecessary.
“Overall, there’s a lot of things to like from the game. With such a beautiful occasion and a great week for us, it’s fitting that we got the results that I believe we thoroughly deserved.”
Milicic held special praise for debutant Jenna McCormick, who stood in for the suspended Alanna Kennedy alongside long-time centre-back partner Clare Polkinghorne.
“I’m so pleased for [McCormick] because you talk about making your debut, how memorable is the occasion going to be,” Milicic said.
“This stadium, this crowd, to get a win, she was dominant. She brought us a lot of that physical aspect that we needed from a centre-back.
“What we ask of our centre-backs with the ball, you need to be brave and it’s a new way of playing for her at this level. She was fantastic and she’s been great around the group.
“We were really looking at creating depth in that department. We all know what happened at the World Cup with [Clare Polkinghorne] getting injured in game one, with Laura Alleway getting injured in the pre-camp.
“I think we just might have one there in Jenna so hopefully she can reflect on this and build on it and we can get some consistency.
“I’m really, really pleased for her and I think it was a lovely touch to by Sammy [Kerr] when she ran over to acknowledge her as she was coming off. Those little things mean a lot to the group.”
Milicic also had positive words for Aivi Luik, who started in central midfield, and new Western Sydney Wanderers signing Amy Harrison, who came on in front of her own supporters.
“Aivi has been fit, she is playing well at her club, she’s got those match minutes in her and she combined really well with Emily [van Egmond],” he said.
“It was nice for Amy Harrison to come on, she’s just moved to the Wanderers so it was a home game for her.”
Milicic named only three outfield players on the substitutes bench, alongside his two back-up goalkeepers, and the head coach explained he wants to keep a tight-knit group ahead of the qualifying campaign for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“Going to the Olympics, we’re going with 18, so let’s be realistic about that,” he said.
“Tameka Butt got injured, [Katrina Gorry] got injured, Alanna [Kennedy] was suspended and we’ve got girls away with the Young Matildas.
“We’ll do a review and look forward to putting on another performance on Tuesday. Maybe we look to bring in one or two [Young Matildas] in to Adelaide to assist with the loads.”
Kennedy has now served her one-man ban following her red card in the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ and Milicic admitted he was hopeful to have Butt or Gorry available for the second match of the series in Adelaide on Tuesday, 12 November.