Australia ended England’s 30-match unbeaten run with a 2-0 friendly win over the Lionesses in front of a crowd of 14,489 at the Gtech Community Stadium, Brentford.
The world number four Lionesses, who lifted the inaugural trophy in the women’s final at Wembley last week, were favorites to beat the injury-plagued number 10 Matildas.
But Sarina Wiegman’s side trailed at the break after Chelsea forward Sam Kerr capitalized on a mistake by Leah Williamson and Charlotte Grant doubled the lead after the restart with a header that deflected the captain ‘England.
It was European champions England’s last scheduled match ahead of the World Cup in New Zealand and Australia, where the Lionesses begin their campaign against Haiti in just over 100 days.
Australia manager Tony Gustavsson had decided to rest Kerr for the Matidas’ 1-0 defeat in a friendly against Scotland on Friday, so she was fresh to face England.
It was the home side who tried to strike first as the skies opened and Alessia Russo attempted to flick the ball past Mackenzie Arnold from a soggy slip but could only aim it straight into the waiting keeper’s arms of West Ham.
Arnold was soon able to fend off Lauren Hemp’s delivery in the box, but came into contact with Russo in the process, the number nine – once again earning a start to Aston Villa’s Rachel Daly – felt it best to continue after a short break.
Georgia Stanway’s high effort was picked up by Arnold and Australia survived a handful of set pieces from the largely dominant hosts, who were forced to replace Hemp – who started the contest wearing a protective mask – with Lauren James.
Russo again in attack for England, this time Chloe Kelly’s shot from the right from a corner which the Manchester United attacker tried to finish off with a stunt, instead sending just wide of the post.
England had largely kept the ball inside Australia’s half, but it was the Matildas who took the lead after 32 minutes when Williamson undershot a normal defensive header intended for England goalkeeper Mary Earps.
It proved deadly when Chelsea’s Kerr, chasing the England skipper, charged forward to intercept and lift the ball over Manchester United’s paratrooper Earps to give the Matildas the lead.
Some suggested Kerr was offside in the build-up, but without the VAR that was in place at Wembley, the goal stood and the home side – after James skidded an stoppage-time effort – went into the counterattack with a rare downside.
Somehow they avoided danger to start the second half when Kerr latched onto Cortnee Vine’s cross and was somehow able to evade both Jess Carter and Esme Morgan, alongside the Australian, who headed in a hard shot but wide of the left post from inside the area.
England struggled to get anything going as rain continued to keep conditions slippery.
James twice looked to equalise, her first attempt blocked by an Australian defender and her second forcing Arnold into a low save before Chloe Kelly sent a shot over the bar.
Wiegman, still looking for a solution to England’s attacking problems, swapped Ella Toone for Daly on the hour, but seven minutes later, her side found themselves on the wrong side of two goals down.
Kerr turned supplier this time when he sent a cross into the box where Grant stepped up to meet him, his nodded attempt taking a deflection off the hapless Williamson before finding the back of the net, though eventually l The Australian was credited with the goal, his first in international action.
England pushed to recover one but were largely let down by a determined Australian side, who celebrated goalless victory after Arnold coolly collected Stanway’s free-kick in stoppage time.