With a rousing chorus of the national anthem, the Matildas kicked off their 10th game of 2017 in front of an excited but underdone Melbourne crowd of 10,904 spectators.
Having won seven of nine matches in 2017, Australia were looking to finish off with a bang and they did exactly that with Sam Kerr scoring twice and Tameka Butt splitting them for a third resulting in a 3-0 victory.
By the 10th minute, Australia were already dominating possession, notching up a couple of shots wide of the mark. Australia continued to press high in attack via a few fast breaks, but were unable to squeeze through the defence of China.
Emily Van Egmond held up play admirably, displaying patience to construct an attack through the right opportunity, whilst Lisa De Vanna unselfishly distributed the ball where fans have otherwise seen her blaze away in attack.
China were rarely in attack, but when they were, it was the speed and tenacity of Clare Polkinghorne and Hayley Raso who kept them at bay.
Australia kept pushing and created a range of options through a running Lisa De Vanna who pushed the ball across goal in a frustrating lack of finishing.
Caitlin Foord energised the attack, combining with a leaping Sam Kerr only to be denied by the clean hands of China’s goalkeeper Zhao Lina.
In the 23rd minute, the mercurial Kerr connected with a curling corner delivery from Van Egmond, finally capitalising on the string of attacking possessions.
With a couple of offsides by halftime, coach Alen Stajcic could rue the missed opportunities but should otherwise be pleased heading into the changerooms. The Matildas controlled the game when pressing high, in particular with the two wing backs Raso and Steph Catley.
To halftime, China rarely looked dangerous apart from a few forays against the run of play.
The start of the second half saw Chloe Logarzo subbed on and pushed up, with Foord dropping back to replace an injured Steph Catley.
Early chances to Kerr roused the crowd but it was Tameka Butt who lit up the goal for the second time, her right foot strike wrong footing the keeper after taking a small deflection off Ma Jun.
Not to be outdone, Kerr demanded the spotlight back with a stunning bullet from outside the penalty area, leaving Zhao Lina with no chance to deny Australia’s third.
The Matildas and China return to duel in Geelong at Simonds Stadium on Sunday at 4:30pm with China aiming to level the two match series and the Matildas out to seal a perfect finish 2-0 at the end of the year.
Australia 3 (Kerr 23’ / 64’, Butt 53’)
China PR 0
Australia: 18. Mackenzie Arnold (gk) (12. Eliza Campbell 82’), 4. Clare Polkinghorne, 7. Steph Catley (6. Chloe Logarzo 46’), 9. Caitlin Foord, 10. Emily van Egmond, 11. Lisa De Vanna (22. Larissa Crummer 86’), 13. Tameka Butt (17. Kyah Simon 67’), 14. Alanna Kennedy, 16. Hayley Raso, 19. Katrina Gorry (2. Amy Harrison 90’+1), 20. Sam Kerr (23. Michelle Heyman 86’)
Unused Substitutes 1. Lydia Williams (gk), 5. Laura Alleway, 8. Elise Kellond-Knight, 21. Ellie Carpenter
Yellow Cards None
Red Cards None
Referee Esther Staubli (Switzerland)