NEWCASTLE: Chelsea striker Sam Kerr scored twice as Australia moved within a game of booking their ticket to the Tokyo Olympics after thrashing Vietnam 5-0 in the first leg of their playoff on Friday.
The home captain got the ball rolling with a driving header on 10 minutes after a pinpoint cross from Ellie Carpenter, and then converted a penalty in the second half.
History was always on the Matildas’ side, with Australia winning all seven previous matches against the Vietnamese, scoring 37 goals and conceding none.
And with Europe-based stars Kerr, Caitlin Foord, Emily Gielnik and Chloe Logarzo all making the trip back to play, Vietnam faced an ominous task.
“I thought we controlled the game, we were not as sharp as we would have liked to be at some points, but 5-0 and a good performance from a lot of the girls,” said Kerr.
After Kerr’s opener, Logarzo poked in a second from close range before they spurned a flurry of chances. Emily van Egmond finally nodded home a third from a Steph Catley cross for a 3-0 half-time lead.
Vietnam showed in their qualifying campaign that they have firepower up front and speed on the flanks, and they created chances but were not able to convert.
Defender Clare Polkinghorne got Australia’s fourth from close range before Hayley Raso was brought down in the box and Kerr stepped up to complete the rout in front of more than 14,000 fans in Newcastle, north of Sydney.
The return leg is in Vietnam on March 11. Vietnam’s women footballers will play it behind closed doors, football authorities said.
The game will be held in the Cam Pha stadium in northern Quang Ninh province.
A statement released by Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) said the match organizer decided not to open ticket sales to the public “due to the complicated development of COVID-19 outbreak.”
“Spectators should not come to the stadium area ... avoid large public gatherings, to ensure effective prevention of the outbreak,” according to the statement.
VFF General Secretary Le Hoai Anh said that “only accredited people can attend the game.”
Vietnam suspended all sporting competitions in the country in February in order to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
All games in the season-opening round of Vietnam’s top football division V.League 1 will be played behind closed doors.
However, Vietnamese authorities said the country’s inaugural Formula One race would go ahead as scheduled on April 5.