A poor start cost the Football Ferns any hope of upsetting Australia’s Matildas as New Zealand lost 3-1 to their hosts at GIO Stadium, Canberra, in the second game of their two-match series.
A shaky New Zealand defence conceded three goals in a 17-minute spell in the first half, eliminating any realistic hope of a Ferns win.
But plenty of positives can be taken from the New Zealand fightback which started with a Hannah Wilkinson goal on the stroke of half-time, and a second-half in which the Ferns grew in confidence.
New Zealand started brightly and striker Hannah Wilkinson almost scored in the third minute, sliding a shot just wide of the goal.
That shook the Matildas into life and they immediately settled into a pattern, dominating possession and being able to get players forward quickly.
Australia looked most threatening, however, from set-pieces as nervous New Zealand defenders gave their opponents too much room and failed to put them under pressure.
In the 13th minute, Friday’s matchwinner for Australia, Sam Kerr, was allowed a free header which she steered wide.
Two minutes later, Kerr came storming in to meet a corner, heading Australia into a 1-0 lead.
Two minutes, later Hayley Raso calmly shot past Kiwi ‘keeper Erin Nayler to double the Matildas’ lead.
Kerr extended the home side’s lead to 3-0 in the 32nd minute and it was starting to look like a rout.
Wilkinson finishes off fine move to score late in the half
As the half neared its end, with Australia having had 72% of the possession, Fern Katie Bowen played a 30-metre pass through the middle, reaching midfielder Olivia Chance.
The Celtic player turned, quickly took stock of the situation and split the defence with a ball through to Wilkinson.
Her first attempt was blocked but she spun and reached the ball first, lunging and prodding it into the net.
The goal sent the teams into the break at 3-1 and with New Zealand at least salvaging some level of hope after a disastrous opening half-hour.
Main photo: Hannah Wilkinson … steadying to turn and stab the ball into the net.
In the second half, the Australians pushed forward from the outset, clearly wanting to intimidate the Ferns and force a surrender.
A couple of half-chances went astray; somehow New Zealand survived the next 15 minutes.
Australia brought on five subs but New Zealand had found a fresh sense of rhythm, and confidence started to build.
New Zealand started to string passes together and for the last quarter of the game, the sides were evenly matched.
The Australians defended well enough to see out the game with a margin that, in the end, fairly reflected the run of play.
In the first game of the series, New Zealand lost 2-1 with Australia scoring both their goals in added time.