Mary Fowler’s late winner against Vietnam booked the Westfield Young Matildas’ spot in the semi finals of the AFC U-19 Women’s Championship.
Fowler pounced in the 84th-minute to score her third goal of the competition and keep Australia’s hopes of qualifying for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup alive with a 1-0 win.
A draw would have been enough for Vietnam to clinch second place and send Australia packing and, after a closely-fought content in rain-drenched conditions, the match remained goalless heading into a nail-biting last few minutes.
That is when the 16-year-old stepped up, firing in low from a packed penalty area, to secure second in Group A and a place in the final four at the Asian women’s youth football showcase in Thailand.
The Westfield Young Matildas will play either Korea Republic or Japan in the Semi Finals at Chonburi Stadium on Wednesday, 6 November AEDT, while DPR Korea also advanced from Group A as winners.
Three Asian Football Confederation places at the FIFA U-20 World Cup are up for grabs. That means one more win, in either the semi-finals or third place playoff, will be enough to punch a ticket to Nigeria in July 2020.
“We prepared very well for the match against Vietnam,” said head coach Leah Blayney.
“We had a good game plan going and it worked with our possession-based football.
“We found it difficult to execute the shots in the first half due to the rain. At the end of the day, our attitude and never say die mentally helped us with the win.”
Australia's resilience shines in stormy conditions
Aussie live-wire Fowler showed her goal-threat from the off when her third minute effort from Rachel Lowe’s pass was blocked, before Aussie keeper Annalee Grove was forced to make a smart stop from Vietnam’s Nguyen Tu Ahn.
Blayney’s side breathed a sign of relief when Cu Huynh Nhu’s header flew wide of Grove’s goal, and Luong Thu Thuong blazed over before half-time.
The start of the second half was delayed due to the torrential conditions as Blayney sent on Princess Ibini and Charlotte Grant in a bid to change the game.
Grove was called upon again on 54 minutes to deny Vietnam captain Nguyen Tuyet Ngan from inside the penalty area and Ngan Van Su missed a golden chance when clean through on goal two minutes later.
Australia grew in stature as the closing stages drew nearer and Fowler thought she had broken the deadlock on 69 minutes only to see her attempt to be chased off.
And the moments the Westfield Young Matildas had been waiting for arrived on 84 minutes, when Fowler made no mistake from six yards out.
Hollie Palmer’s effort was cleared off the line as Australia looked to clinch the result but one goal was all they needed to ensure their Asian adventure continues.
Westfield Young Matildas | 2019 AFC U-19 Women’s Championship | Chonburi, Thailand
Australia v TBC
Date: Wednesday, 7 November 2019
Location: Chonburi Stadium, Chonburi, Thailand
Kick-off: 7.00pm (local); 11.00pm (AEDT)