Unstoppable Matildas notch 900th goal as Olympic qualification playoff beckons

Mary Fowler has unleashed a long-range thunderbolt and Sam Kerr scored again as the Matildas posted a 3-0 Olympic qualifying win over Taiwan in Perth.

In front of 19,084 fans at HBF Park on Wednesday night, it took until the 62nd minute for Australia to open the scoring – but it was worth the wait.

Fowler trapped a floated pass and took one more touch before unleashing a powerful strike from 20m to send the crowd wild.

Hometown hero Kerr scored from point-blank range six minutes later to keep the ball rolling, before substitute Tameka Yallop sealed the deal in the 76th minute.

The result meant Australia finished on top of Group A with a perfect nine points from nine and a goal difference of plus 13.

To qualify for the Olympics, Australia must now beat an Asian confederation rival in a two-legged play-off in February.

The POWER of FOWLER ????

A breathtaking goal from Mary Fowler gives @TheMatildas the goal they’ve been searching for!

Keep up with everything #AUSvTPE on Paramount+ ???? pic.twitter.com/1MDBp0KPjR

— Paramount+ Australia (@ParamountPlusAU) November 1, 2023

North Korea, Australia and Japan have already secured their places among the final four in Asia, and either South Korea, Uzbekistan or the Philippines will join them.

But who plays who in the two-legged play-offs remains to be seen, with Australia hoping to avoid world No.8 Japan. 

Australia, fresh off an 8-0 demolition of the Philippines, unleashed a near full-strength starting XI against Taiwan featuring Kerr, Caitlin Foord, Fowler, Mackenzie Arnold and Steph Catley. 

But despite registering 17 shots to one in the first half and enjoying 79 per cent possession, the Matildas couldn’t find a way past Taiwan’s staunch defence.

Fowler came the closest in the 14th minute, but her powerful shot from close range rattled the woodwork and deflected away. 

Taiwan goalkeeper Cheng Ssu-Yu pulled off a series of strong saves to further frustrate the Matildas.

But Australia had only themselves to blame on other occasions, firing a series of shots either wide or over the target.

Kerr had a golden chance to open the scoring on the stroke of halftime, but her header at the far post went over the crossbar. 

Our 900th goal presented to you by @samkerr1 ????

???? @10FootballAU #Matildas #AUSvTPE #WAtheDreamState pic.twitter.com/1iezDuKH2c

— CommBank Matildas (@TheMatildas) November 1, 2023

The Chelsea striker also fluffed a chance early in the second half when a poor first touch cost her what would have been a one-on-one opportunity against the goalkeeper.

But there was no stopping Fowler’s thunderous strike in the 62nd minute..

And when a goalmouth scramble ensued six minutes later, Kerr was on hand to put away the easy tap-in. 

It made it five goals for Kerr across the three qualifiers, and also marked the Matildas’ 900th goal. 

Kerr was subbed off straight after the goal, but Yallop ensured the party continued with an easy tap-in following good lead-in work from Caitlin Foord and Amy Sayer. 

In the other match in Perth on Wednesday, the Philippines beat Iran 1-0 courtesy of a 19th-minute goal from Tahnai Annis. 

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