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Tickets all but booked: Matildas, Heyman rain goals on Uzbekistan

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An incredible start at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium means the Matildas can start planning for the Paris Olympics. The only question now is how many goals they can rack up in the second leg of their Olympics qualifier against Uzbekistan.

9:50PM: BREAK IN PLAY AS KEEPER GETS ATTENTION

Uzbekistan’s back-up keeper has now spent some time on the sideline after having her foot stood on accidentally by Hayley Raso.

Kumushoy has been good since coming on, but another keeper change would be the last thing her side needs.

Thankfully after a few minutes of treatment she’s back in action and play resumes.

9:40PM: ANOTHER SUB, ANOTHER GOAL

The deadlock has broken on the second half, after nearly 20 minutes without a goal.

A beautiful fake left Raso wide open on the far side and she duly found the back of the net.

Huge relief for her after several attempts.

Meanwhile, Captain Catley has come from the field as Charltotte Grant comes on.

In front of goal, another Australia set piece has created a massive chance, with Hayley Raso sending another ball into the side of the net.

Official crowd is 54,120, too.

9:30PM: NEARLY JINXED IT

Moments after hitting update on that last post, Hayley Raso was running into an open goal, having evaded the new Uzbek goalkeeper near the line after a gorgeous Tameka Yallop pass into space.

No dice as her shot from the goal line sailed into the side of the net.

9:28PM: GOLDEN CHANCE BLOWN… FOR UZBEKISTAN

Uzbek captain Karachik Lyudmila put substitute Khabibulladeva Diyorakhon in space, with nothing but grass between her and Mackenzie Arnold in the 55th minute.

However, Arnold rushed to her and smothered what should have been an Uzbek goal, and a well-deserved one after they caught the Australian defence napping with a quick counterattack.

At the other end, new sub Hayley Raso had a header sail just above the crossbar, and a minute later Mary Fowler weaved through defenders to the top of the box and also sailed her shot wide.

We’re 15 minutes into this second half with… no goals?

9:15PM: WE’RE BACK ON DECK

It took 80 seconds for Australia to generate a genuine chance, which has resulted in Uzbek goalkeeper Maftuna going down

I’m not sure what exactly she’s done but she’s being stretchered off, with Gulomova Kumushoy coming on with the gloves on, which is the last think Uzbekistan needs.

She’s immediately fumbled a shot on goal, which bounced off the post and let her pounce on it.

Tony Gustavsson made four changes at the break, with Michelle Heyman, Caitlin Foord, Katrina Gorry and Ellie Carpenter all coming off and Tameka Yallop, Amy Sayer, Hayley Raso, Emily van Egmond coming on.

9:00PM: AND… BREATHE

The Matildas have booked themselves tickets to Paris, barring a 12-goal unanswered second half from Uzbekistan.

Based on the first half, I’d say that’s… unlikely.

Michelle Heyman looked on the outer of Tony Gustavsson’s squad, with the Tillies mentor needing to cut his squad of 21 down to 18 before they get on the plane.

After four goals in a half, and three in less than 20 minutes, can she be the answer for a Sam Kerr-less Australia?

Speaking of Kerr, two goals in that half came off the boot of Australia’s number 20 jumper, but it wasn’t Kerr wearing it, with the superstar still recovering from an ACL.

Kaitlyn Torpey has two — one deflected off a defender — goals in the first half and assisted… two? three? more. I honestly don’t know. I can’t keep up.

I’m going to go and let the smoke stop coming off my fingers while the Matildas douse flames off their boots at the break.

8:55PM: FOUR FOR HEYMAN

A redemption story for the ages! Michelle Heyman is doing what she pleases in the box, with her FOURTH goal of the half.

Torpey sent it in and Heyman did the rest as that is half time with the score at EIGHT-NIL.

The Uzbek goalkeeper Maftuna has saved a few tough chances in the five minutes leading up to that goal while a few others, including a Katrina Gorry cross, have sailed just wide of the open goal mouth.

Nothing she could do about that one thought.

Has Heyman booked her ticket to Paris?

8:48PM: GOALS FOWLER, FOORD

The milestone woman finds the back of the net in her 50th game and we are at SIX-NIL after 35 minutes.

Caitlin Foord did a miracle job keeping in a ball which looked destined to go out, and then teamed up with Heyman to centre it to Fowler who did the rest.

Then less than two minutes later Foord got on the end of a spill from a free kick and found the back on the net.

It’s seven nil? I think it’s seven-nil. It might be eight-nil before I finish typing this sentence.

Normally on these blogs I’d be giving you blow-by-blow updates of every major shot on goal and every half-chance, but this game is not like other games and my poor little fingers can’t keep up.

We’ve had four really big chances — not including those two goals — since the last update but I just can’t keep up.

8:37PM: HUGE SHOUT AT THE OTHER END

Uzbekistan nearly founnd a goal of their own at the other end, with a breakaway attack requiring a strong save from Australia’s Minister of Defence Mackenzie Arnold, with a genuinely dangerous push forward not far off putting the visitors on the board.

Strong reminder for the Aussies that despite the result seeming over within 20 minutes, Uzbekistan is still a threat.

At the other end, an Ellie Carpenter shot has just gone wide after Maftuna knocked the ball out into space,

8:31PM: ANOTHER ONE

Kaitlyn Torpey has a second goal, this one entirely her own, without coming off the boot of a defender, after collecting a cross on the outside of the box and sending it to the back of the net.

I can’t keep up. Uzbekistan’s defence is non-existent and every thrust forward by the Tillies looks like scoring.

8:26PM: HAT-TRICK HEYMAN

Michelle Heyman has a hat-trick within FIFTEEN MINUTES at Marvel Stadium as Australia puts Uzbekistan to the sword.

Australia’s had a few chances go begging, too, but Uzbekistan have finally notched a serious possession in their offensive half, which was repelled by the Australian defence, with another one minutes later saved by a diving Mackenzie Arnold.

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8:18PM: GOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL X3

I’m not kidding, that’s THREE goals in EIGHT MINUTES for the Matildas as they are putting Uzbekistan to the sword.

Fowler, who is the second-youngest Matilda to 50 games, crosses in again to the box, with Michelle Heyman in the right place at the right time to head it in past a powerless Jonimqulova Maftuna.

It’s THREE-NIL.

8:14PM: GOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL

AGAIN! The Matildas have started on fire, with a Mary Fowler cross being kept alive despite the odds by Kaitlyn Torpey, wbo crosses it into the box to a waiting Michelle Heyman.

The Matildas are elated, with this the worst possible start for Uzbekistan.

Is that tickets to Paris booked just four minutes in?

8:11PM: GOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAL

Dream start for the Matildas, 34 seconds in after a shot from Kaitlyn Torpey deflected off an Uzbek defenders’ boot and into the back of the net.

First goal for the second gamer!

8:10PM: WE’RE OFF AND RUNNING

We have kicked off. Go Tillies!

The last 10 minutes have given a chance for a lot more people to find their seats, with Marvel Stadium looking full and sounding loud.

Michelle Heyman with the first touch of the game.

8:00PM: FANS STUCK OUTSIDE AS TILLIES KICK-OFF DELAYED

We’re off and running at Marvel Stadium, but while the Matildas charge towards Olympic qualifying, thousands of fans are still stuck outside in the heat.

There are still plenty of empty seats in the ground for the sold-out clash, but we’ve had kick-off delayed by a few minutes with proceedings running a little bit late which has seen more people through the gate

7.50PM: FOWLER NOTCHES MILESTONE

Australian forward Mary Fowler will play her 50th match tonight.

7:30PM: HALF AN HOUR TO GO

The crowd at Marvel Stadium is building with both sides out in the middle warming up.

It’s quite blustery, too, with the roof at Marvel open to the elements — I shudder to think how hot it would be with it closed.

Fans are packed right to the rafters, too, so I’d be shocked if the remaining two thirds of the seats aren’t full in the next half an hour.

7:00PM: GUSTAVSSON SWINGS TWO CHANGES

Michelle Heyman and Caitlin Foord have come into the Matildas starting XI for tonight’s clash against Uzbekistan, with Kaitlyn Torpey holding her spot after suggestions she might head back to the bench after her debut in Tashkent.

Heyman played her first game in eight years on Sunday, breaking the deadlock in the 70th minute, less than 10 minutes after being subbed into the game.

It’ll be her chance to tell Gustavsson he can’t afford to leave her out of the Matildas Olympic run.

Hayley Raso and Emily van Egmond will start on the bench, with Gustavsson floating that he would be managing minutes for his stars who have been racking up game time in leagues around the world.

6:25PM: PITCH PERFECT POST-PINK CONCERT

Despite Marvel Stadium hosting two Pink concerts on Friday and Saturday nights, the pitch has held up well.

The area covered by the stage is completely off the pitch, with some of the grass in front of the stage re-layered this week ahead of the clash.

Ground staff required cranes and heavy equipment to bump Pink in and out of Marvel, but were under strict instruction to not drive them across the playing surface.

Pink will return for two more shows on March 12 and 13, while turf at the MCG has also been put in the spotlight following three sold-out shows by Taylor Swift last weekend.

6:00PM: CROWD BEGINS FILTERING IN

A stead stream of fans in green and fold have started making their way into Marvel Stadium, with some fans lining up in the heat for two hours before the gates opened.

We’re yet to see any of the famed Mackenzie Arnold jumpers which sold out in minutes when they went on sale this week.

5.45PM: HEAT TO BE A FACTOR IN FINAL OLYMPIC QUALIFIER

As the Matildas prepare to take on Uzbekistan to book a ticket to Paris later this year, conditions couldn’t be more different to Taskent, where Australia registered a 3-0 victory against their Central Asian opponents.

In the middle of winter, the Matildas were welcomed by one degree weather and the threat of snow in front of a modest crowd of less than 3000.

While the snow held off during the clinical 3-0 win, there’s no threat of snow in Melbourne, with the mercury reading 35.6 degrees at Marvel Stadium.

Uzbekistan will also be faced with it’s largest-ever crowd at the sold-out Marvel as 50,000 fans in green and gold are expected to cheer on the Matildas on their quest to qualify for the Olympics.

How Midori Honda’s charges cope with the noise and sound will go a long way to determining if they can make a dent in the Australians’ 3-0 lead following the Tashkent leg on Sunday.

Her Matildas counterpart Tony Gustavsson has said he wants to “attack, attack, attack” tonight on Marvel Stadium, and how each side adjusts to the heat will go a long way to determining how many goals find the back of the net.

The match will kick-off at 8pm, which will be cooler than the afternoon top of nearly 36 degrees.

GUSTAVSSON: MATILDAS SHOULDN’T BE DEFINED BY TROPHIES

Erin Smith

A medal, a trophy — something to show for her 12-year career with the Matildas — that is all Steph Catley wants.

Catley, promoted to captain while Sam Kerr recovers from her ACL injury, has played 122 games for the Matildas and has nothing to show for it.

The Matildas haven’t won a major tournament since taking out the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2010.

Speaking before the final leg of the Olympic qualifiers with Uzbekistan Catley said winning something was a huge motivator for the entire team.

“We have come very, very close to achieving something physical,” Catley said.

“At the last Olympics and the World Cup we finished fourth and that’s something that sits pretty heavy within this group.

“We are obviously all getting a little bit older now and the opportunities for major tournaments are getting thinner.

“We’re definitely very motivated to get something physical out of the last however many years that we’ve built this team up to the point that we are now and I think the football we’ve played especially over the last couple of years.

“We’re competing with the best in the world consistently. We want to continue to do that for as long as we can.

“Obviously you look at the core group of this team and we are definitely running out of opportunities.

“We have to qualify for the Olympics first but we definitely see this as a massive opportunity to get something physical out of what we’ve done over the last few years.

“The passion and desire to do that is definitely there.”

Coach Tony Gustavsson said success didn’t always mean lifting a trophy — but he still really wanted to help the team get a win.

“Don’t misinterpret me,” Gustavsson said.

“People that know me know how much I want to win and how much I hate to lose. But I also know that lifting that trophy can be fireworks for a day then it can feel empty the day after.

“I’ve seen it and I felt that and it needs to be something bigger than just to feel the medal around your neck.

“It needs to be the heart beating on the backside of it as well and that this team stands for is amazing.

“It is a reminder of what life is about, what sport is about but it’s so much more than 90 minutes of football.”

CAPTAIN CATLEY

Injured Kerr has been right by Catley’s side this camp — not physically — but still making herself available to offer support and guidance.

Cately said she still had her training wheels on when it came to wearing the captain’s armband and Kerr had been an amazing support.

“I’m still very much leaning on Sam and she’s very much involved in a lot of the decision making and things that we talked about,” Catley said.

“She’s an incredible leader and someone that’s very, very important to this team. We’re absolutely still involved in talking about things and I did tell her right at the beginning if she ever feels like it’s too much and she’s got obviously so much to deal with so much to focus on with her injury and getting back so I definitely put it out there that if it’s too much she doesn’t want to be involved at whatever point she’s obviously more than welcome to step away but she cares about this team so much.

“So see she’s definitely very much on top of everything and I’m still leaning on her for a lot of things.

“It’s nice to have her there.”

Adding to the challenge of taking on the leadership role is the number of new and returning faces in the camp for these qualifiers.

It’s a relatively short camp and with Gustavsson putting so much importance on cohesion Catley has the job of bringing the team together.

“It can be difficult,” Catley said.

“We do obviously have a lot of great consistency in this team.

“A lot of us have played together for a long, long time and sometimes it can be challenging when a new player comes in because you’re so used to playing with someone else and you used to their movements and the way that they played but I think it’s a credit to the players that have come in straight away at training they’ve had been at an incredible level. “Technically, tactically, they’ve taken in everything that we do as a team and you know put that into practice straightaway.

“I think if you look at Kaitlyn Torpey coming in obviously it’s her first camp.

“She did great on the field and fitted in really well and then Michelle (Heyman) coming off the bench after so many years and not being part of it. It’s an absolute credit to them and what they’re able to do on and off the field.

“It can be a challenge but I think it’s amazing what they can do as players to come into a set-up and still make an impact and not disturb what’s already there as well.”

Catley, who hails from Melbourne, is expected to be part of the run-on side for the final Olympic qualifier leg at Marvel Stadium at 8pm on Wednesday (AEDT).

Originally published as Australia v Uzbekistan: Latest scores, news from Olympic qualifier in Melbourne

Read related topics:Melbourne

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