Matildas slump in Kerr's milestone match

Sam Kerr's 100th international for Australia ended in defeat to the Republic of Ireland.
Sam Kerr's 100th international for Australia ended in defeat to the Republic of Ireland.

Coach Tony Gustavvsson has lamented the Matildas' failure to fire in Sam Kerr's 100th international, saying the Republic of Ireland "wanted it more" as the Australians slumped to a shock 3-2 loss.

Exciting young gun Mary Fowler scored a first-half brace and was a shining light at Dublin's Tallaght Stadium but Australia's defensive issues proved their downfall - with the defeat soured further with a knee injury suffered by Chloe Logarzo.

The Irish were under pressure after a seven-game winless streak but clearly buoyed in front of a home crowd, having recently sealed an equal pay deal - and their aggression and energy on the counter-attack was in stark contrast to that of the shaky Matildas.

"I said in the circle with the team afterwards that it felt that they wanted it more than us - and that's not OK," Gustavsson told reporters post-match.

"With the Matildas, it's in our DNA to always give it 100 (per cent), to play a physical game, to be aggressive, to wear the crest on the chest and always play our best and it felt like Ireland wanted it more."

Gustavsson lamented poor passing efficiency and defensive lapses - but said his charges looked "off" from the opening whistle, while also conceding he'd assess his own performance.

"We felt really motivated going in to the game because it's been a lot of focusing on Sam Kerr's 100th game, and we said we want to leave our captain with a memory for her life," he said.

"She's going to remember this game for the rest of her life, right, it's her 100th cap, we said we want to leave our captain with a positive memory, so we play extra for our captain - and it didn't look like that tonight.

"We didn't look energised and passionate, the way I'm used to seeing this team, and that's not okay, and we all agreed on that in the circle (post-match)."

Gustavsson said there were "no positives" as a collective but individually highlighted Fowler's "world class" first half and Kyra Cooney-Cross' "mature" midfield showing, while he relished substitute Angela Beard's "brave" defensive performance on debut.

Australia were missing the likes of Caitlin Foord, Ellie Carpenter, Emily van Egmond, Hayley Raso and Kyah Simon.

The Matildas were a goal down after just three minutes when Lucy Quinn's free kick bounced off the near post, then ricocheted home off recalled goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold - who was replaced by Lydia Williams at half-time in a planned substitution.

The Matildas hit back in the 14th minute, when Fowler's long-range shot squirmed through the hands of goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan.

Ireland regained the lead in the 23rd minute through Denise O'Sullivan's deflected strike, while a similarly heavily-deflected injury-time effort from Fowler put Australia back on level terms.

The winner arrived on 49 minutes when Louise Quinn capitalised on a total lack of defensive pressure at a corner to score with a back-post header.

Logarzo was injured in a challenge in the 53rd minute, while midfielder Clare Wheeler, Beard and defender Charlotte Grant all made their debuts.

Kerr looked isolated for much of the second half and finished goalless in her milestone game.

Australian Associated Press