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Tokyo Olympics - Group G: Australia cruise past New Zealand 

Tokyo: Australia made a winning start to their Tokyo Olympics Women’s Football campaign, registering a 2-1 win over New Zealand at Tokyo Stadium on Wednesday.

Winless in five matches under new boss Tony Gustavsson coming into the clash, the Matildas were too strong for their neighbours with first half goals from Tameka Yallop and Sam Kerr providing enough of a buffer to withstand a late New Zealand push which included a last-gasp goal from Gabi Rennie.

Following Sweden’s surprise 3-0 win over the United States earlier on Wednesday, the result puts Australia in second place in Group G ahead of their clash with the Swedes on Saturday.

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Eager to lay down a marker following their imperfect build up to the tournament, Gustavsson’s side started strongly and only grew more confident as the first half progressed.

They were sharp, confident and energetic, all traits that were present in a terrific opening goal which arrived in the 20th minute via a thumping finish from Yallop, who had been teed up by a clever Kerr touch after Australia had pressed New Zealand high up the pitch to win possession.

Kerr’s reward for what was an excellent individual performance arrived 13 minutes later when the Chelsea star thundered a near post header into the crossbar and over the line from Steph Catley’s corner, putting Australia comfortably clear at half-time.

Australia’s command largely continued into the second period, with saves from New Zealand goalkeeper Erin Nayler preventing Kyah Simon and Caitlin Foord from extending the lead further, while Kerr was denied what would have been a sensational back-heel goal by a deflection.

New Zealand didn’t go down without a fight, however, and they made for a nervous finish when Rennie punished some poor Australian marking to score with an angled header in injury time.

But the Matildas held on to take all three points, ending a run of six successive matches without a win in major tournament openers, with their last successful curtain-raiser coming by way of a 2-0 win over Vietnam at the 2010 AFC Women’s Asian Cup.

Australia can all but secure their place in the knockout stage with another win against Sweden on Saturday, with the top two from each group plus the best two third-placed teams to advance to the quarter-finals.

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