Kahli Johnson’s dreams came true last night when she played 90 minutes for The Commonwealth Bank Young Matildas and scored her first international goal in the 5-1 win over New Zealand at Deakin Stadium, Canberra.
The Dee Why FC, CC Strikers junior and current Manly United player took to the top of field as striker, a position she has not played in for two years, however this didn’t stop her from adding to the scorecard.
First half goals from Jynaya Dos Santos, Sarah Hunter and Daniela Galic saw the Aussies take a 3-1 lead into the break with Johnson and captain Sheridan Gallagher rounding out the scoring in the second half.
Australia started confidently and in the first minute Dos Santos forced a save from Kiwi goalkeeper Bri Edwards for an early corner.
The resulting corner saw the forward capitalise on the ball falling to her on the edge of the area with her strike finding the underside of the crossbar before crossing the line for the opening goal.
With the early lead, the CommBank Young Matildas took control of the match and in the 21st minute they doubled their advantage.
A loose New Zealand pass in the defensive zone found Daniela Galic with the midfielder working her way into the penalty area before being brought down. Sydney FC’s Sarah Hunter stepped up to take the penalty and buried it confidently.
The 39th minute saw Galic hit the scoreboard as she was played in following a strong Gallagher tackle to dispossess Marisa va der Meer. In space, Galic cut inside before striking to the far post past Edwards.
It wasn’t all Australia’s way in the opening half with New Zealand pulling back a goal just before the break thanks to a stunning long-range strike from Charlotte Lancaster. However, the CommBank Young Matildas went in cruising at the interval with a 3-1 lead.
Leah Blayney’s side looked to start off the second half positively once again and they succeeded ten minutes after the whistle.
Kahli Johnson latched onto a long throw before turning into the penalty area. A trailing leg from Kiwi Kate Taylor resulted in the Sydney FC midfielder going down in the box. The 18 year old stepped up to convert her own penalty and struck beautifully into the top right hand corner.
4-1 up, the Aussies kept the pressure on and two minutes later had a fifth. Hunter played through her Sky Blues teammate Johnson with the post denying her a quick-fire brace. The rebounded ball fell to Gallagher only for her to be denied by goalkeeper Edwards.
Once again Australia took advantage of a resulting corner with Gallagher backheeling a brilliant goal through a crush of bodies in the six yard box.
Blayney made a host of changes as the second half progressed with several making their international debuts at the U20 level. The CommBank Young Matildas held onto their advantage in the latter stages to run out convincing 5-1 victors.
In the 81st minute Johnson was joined by a fellow MWFA and Manly junior Shay Hollman, who spent her youth football at Seaforth FC and Manly before joining Football NSW Institute.
Following the host of changes in the camp in recent days, head coach Leah Blayney was delighted with the resilience and adaptability of the group off the pitch, as much as the performance on it.
“It was an excellent night of football for the Young Matildas,” Blayney said. “It was fantastic that Australian football was able to see a lot of future stars of our game in action.”
“During the past couple of days we have just stuck together as a group throughout the whole time, which was really, really helpful for us last night. Every time they pressed, they pressed together, every time they went forward, they went forward together. That has been a theme of the camp and something that they put together on the park.
“On the positives, it was great to have multiple goal scorers. It was good to see that we were able to get to goal through a variety of ways, whether it was through or out wide. The overall performance of a lot of young kids was pleasing with them all playing towards the one goal and that was last night’s game.
“I was proud of the belief that the group had in themselves and in each other. You could see on the pitch that they would play a pass to a teammate and then they are looking to support them on and off the ball. The belief is making a difference in this team.
“There’s definitely a few moments where I’d like to see us a little bit more cohesive. This is in terms of the fluency of our passing and movement. That’s the area I’d like to see improvement on as we go towards FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup™ in August.”
Australia will complete the series on Sunday afternoon at Viking Stadium following the CommBank Matildas Fan Open Day. Kick off will be at 2.00pm.
Supporters can watch the Commonwealth Bank Young Matildas take on New Zealand for FREE with the match live streamed Football Australia’s My Football YouTube page.
Australia 5 (Dos Santos 2’, Hunter 21’(p), Galic 39’, Johnson 55’, Gallagher 57’)
New Zealand 1 (Lancaster 44’)
Wednesday, 6 April 2022
Venue: Deakin Stadium, Canberra
Kick Off: 6.30pm (AEST)
Referee: Anna-Marie Keighey
Australia U20 Line up: 1. Chloe LINCOLN (GK), 5. Hannah JONES (30. Isabel GOMEZ 83’), 6. Sarah HUNTER (13. Shay HOLLMAN 81’), 8. Jynaya DOS SANTOS (9. Caitlin KARIC 61’), 11. Naomi CHINNAMA, 15. Cushla RUE, 17. Sheridan GALLAGHER (C) (27. Sienna SAVESKA 83’), 20. Gemma FERRIS (10. Ella TONKIN 46’), 23. Kahli JOHNSON, 24. Emma ILIJOSKI, 26. Daniela GALIC (28. Amy CHESSARI 81’)
SUBS not used: 18. Sally JAMES (GK), 21. Leticia MCKENNA
Commonwealth Bank Matildas v New Zealand
Sunday, 10 April 2022
Venue: Viking Stadium, Canberra