Photo credit: Official Italy Football Team Twitter Account (@azzurri)

 

Italy were victorious over Australia in their World Cup Group C opener, courtesy of a last gasp 2-1 victory at the Stade du Hainaut in Valenciennes.

Sam Kerr had given the Matildas the lead in the first half, but a Barbara Bonansea double, including a goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time, meant the Azzurre would claim the three points.

Kerr and Italy forward Ilaria Mauro had early chances, before the game’s first big moment came in the 9th minute. Bonansea was released behind the Australian defence, holding off Steph Catley’s challenge and squeezing the ball past Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams. However, an offside call by the assistant and VAR confirmation meant the goal was ruled out.

Australia had focused the majority of their attacks down the left wing in the opening exchanges, but it was a move on the right side that led to the opening goal. Kerr was dragged to the ground by Italy captain Sara Gama while trying to reach Ellie Carpenter’s cross, and a penalty was awarded.

Kerr took the responsibility, and although Azzurre goalkeeper Laura Giuliani made an excellent save from her spot kick, the Perth Glory striker had a simple finish from the rebound to give the Matildas the lead.

Australia seemed more confident now that they had the lead, pressuring Italy into some rushed clearances near their penalty area. However, the Azzurre were maintaining a threat of their own with balls behind the defence and high pressing.

Near the end of the first half, Chloe Logarzo had two headed opportunities, first forcing a save from Hayley Raso’s cross, then heading wide after being picked out by Carpenter.

The Matildas continued this momentum into the second period, and Caitlin Foord had a chance in the 54th minute from another Carpenter cross, with Giuliani making a solid save.

Giuliani’s goalkeeping would prove crucial as the Azzurre equalised a couple of minutes later. Bonansea dispossessed Clare Polkinghorne and headed for goal, jinking past Alanna Kennedy and slotting the ball in the bottom corner.

The momentum had swung Italy’s way, although Australia had chances through Foord and Polkinghorne. While Italy continued to play passes over the top of the Matildas backline for Bonansea, the forward was unable to time her runs correctly, getting caught offside on multiple occasions.

With ten minutes left in normal time, Daniela Sabatino thought she had put the Azzurre in front, finishing neatly from an acute angle after her initial shot came off the post. The assistant’s flag went up again, and Italy had a second goal ruled out for offside.

Italy’s offside woes, combined with Australia’s inability to get shots on target in the closing stages, meant the game seemed destined for a draw. However, there was a final twist deep into stoppage time. Valentina Cernola whipped in a dangerous free kick from out wide, and Bonansea escaped the defence to head home the winner.

Australia have the chance to make amends on Thursday when they face Brazil in Montpellier, while the following day sees Italy meet Jamaica in Reims.

 

Australia 1 (Sam Kerr 22’)

Italy 2 (Barbara Bonansea 56’ 90+5’)