'Classy' Matildas praised for historic act in new Olympic era

·Sports Reporter
·5-min read
The Matildas holding the Aboriginal Flag  and posing for a photo ahead of their opening match at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
The Matildas joined together and held the Aboriginal Flag up ahead of their opening match at the Tokyo Olympic Games. (Getty Images)

The Matildas kick-started their Tokyo Olympics campaign with a brilliant win on the field, but it was their historic moment before the game that had the world talking.

The Aussies held off a fast-finishing New Zealand outfit to kick-off the tournament with a 2-1 win on Thursday.

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Sam Kerr provided the assist for Tameka Yallop's opener and scored in an excellent captain's performance at Tokyo Stadium to secure Australia's first win under Tony Gustavsson.

The Matildas had entered their Olympics opener winless in five games and after a scratchy start, burst to life and dominated the clash.

But the world took notice before the match had even started when the Matildas joined New Zealand, and a number of other countries - including the US and Great Britain - in an unprecedented Olympic moment.

In the opening game of the tournament, the Great Britain women's football team took a knee with their Chilean counterparts before the whistle. 

Later on, the USWNT and the Sweden team took a knee.

When it came to the Matildas' game, the bench could be seen gripping the Aboriginal flag during the national anthem.

And instead of taking a knee at the whistle, the Matildas opted for a different show of activism.

The Matildas showed why they are adored in the nation with the team linking arm-in-arm before the whistle.

Meanwhile, in a planned move, New Zealand took a knee.

Then in a beautiful moment, for the world to see, the Matildas came together to fly the Aboriginal flag just moments before kick-off.

The protest, which was described as a show of togetherness, follows the Olympics relaxing its historically strident rules on protests during the Games.

The gesture was widely praised and will go down as a special moment in the Australian Olympic archives.

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Channel 7 commentator Brenton Speed explained the protest during the historic moment.

"And tonight, the Matildas stand arm in arm in a show of unity and togetherness for all Australian cultures and walks of life," Speed said.

"Coming together with New Zealand's Football Ferns, the team want to send a message that issues of equality have universal support."

Sam Kerr leads Matildas in Olympic opener

New Zealand goalkeeper Erin Nayler made a quick-reaction save to stop defender Abby Erceg putting Ellie Carpenter's cross into her own net in the 17th minute.

Three minutes later, the Matildas capitalised on their dominance and snatched the lead through some delightful one-touch football.

Yallop pounced on a turnover, worked the ball to Kyah Simon and burst forward.

Simon cleverly headed the ball on to Kerr who flicked it to Yallop, with the midfielder taking a touch then smashing the ball into the roof of the net.

Then, in the 33rd minute, Steph Catley whipped a powerful corner into the near post where Kerr smacked a thumping header home off the crossbar for a commanding 2-0 lead, ending her five-game scoring drought.

Simon spurned a golden opportunity to add a third when she hit a chance straight at Nayler in the 47th minute and Kerr put a back heel just wide three minutes later.

It proved to be the tale of the second half as the Matildas had plenty of chances but were unable to extend their lead, largely due to Nayler making several sharp saves and a drop off in intensity.

Exciting teenagers Mary Fowler and Kyra Cooney-Cross made their Olympics debuts in the 75th minute but neither were able to find a goal.

In the first minute of injury time, the Football Ferns snatched a consolation goal on the counter.

Ria Percival headed a cross back across goal for substitute Gabi Rennie, who nodded the ball home just two minutes into her international debut, forcing the Matildas to scramble to lock up all three points.

The Matildas next face Sweden on Saturday, who are coming off a scintillating 3-0 win over the United States.

with AAP

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