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Tokyo 2020 - Play-off 2nd Leg: Australia seal Olympic berth

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Quang Ninh: Australia sealed their place in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics women’s football tournament, beating Vietnam 2-1 on the night, and 7-1 on aggregate, to complete a convincing qualifying campaign at Cam Pha Stadium on Wednesday.

Early goals from Sam Kerr and Hayley Raso, added to Australia’s 5-0 first leg lead, before Vietnamese skipper Huynh Nhu produced a moment for the hosts to savour by spectacularly lobbing Lydia Williams from distance 10 minutes after the interval.

The Matildas win means Australia will be represented in both men’s and women’s football at an Olympic Games for the first time since 2004, with China PR and Korea Republic to compete for the final Asian ticket to Tokyo 2020 in the coming months.

In a stadium closed to the public in order to limit the potential spread the COVID-19 coronavirus, the early action was delayed by a power failure, but Australia wasted little time in taking control when uninterrupted play began, with Kerr sending an effort into the upright after being played through by Foord in the sixth minute.

With the visitors enjoying the lion’s share of possession, and Vietnam pinned almost permanently behind the ball, it took 10 further minutes for Kerr to find the back of the net; moving to second on Australia’s all-time scorers list by carefully volleying Steph Catley’s spot-on cross beyond Tran Thi Kim Thanh from 12 yards.

Kerr turned provider 12 minutes later, breaching the Vietnamese defensive line before unselfishly teeing up Raso for the simplest of finishes into an empty net, and the Matildas would have extended their aggregate lead to eight by half-time had Tranh not impressively saved a Chloe Logarzo penalty after Foord had been felled 10 minutes before the break.

Foord, Clare Polkinghorne and Alanna Kennedy all came closing to adding a third just after the break, but despite Australia’s continuous goal-threat, it was Vietnam who scored first afrer half-time, with skipper Huynh Nhu making good on her pre-match promise as she punished a dreadful error from Kennedy by expertly lifting the ball above Lydia Williams to score from 35 yards.

It was Vietnam’s first ever senior goal against Australia, and a result on the night seemed within their grasp when Tran Thi Thao forced Williams into a save, albeit a comfortable one, in the 66th minute, and the inspired hosts launched several subsequent attacks in the latter stages.

The impressive Thanh made another terrific save to deny a goal bound Kerr volley, before Nguyen Thi Tuyet Dung flashed an effort wide in what was, surprisingly, an end-to-end finish, but Ante Milicic’s side had done enough to complete the task at hand, leaving them to look forward to a second successive Olympic appearance.

Photos: Vietnam Football Federation