Matildas to battle for Olympic bronze following gritty loss to Sweden

Sam Kerr was a constant threat in attack during Australia's semi-final against Sweden in Yokohama on Monday night. Picture: AAP Image/Joe Giddens
Sam Kerr was a constant threat in attack during Australia's semi-final against Sweden in Yokohama on Monday night. Picture: AAP Image/Joe Giddens

The Matildas' quest for gold in Tokyo is over, after falling 1-0 to Sweden on Monday night.

Fridolina Rolfo's second-half strike proved the difference in a game where both teams combined for more than 20 shots in Yokohama. However, the epic semi-final will be remembered for a controversial whistle against Australia on the stroke of half time.

Captain Sam Kerr had appeared to put her side 1-0 up, but referee Melissa Borjas called a foul for an illegal block by Emily van Egmond on a Swedish defender. It would prove the match's turning point as, despite some gallant attacking efforts, the Australians couldn't find a much-needed equaliser.

The result means that Australia will take on USA for the bronze medal, after the world no.1 surprisingly fell 1-0 to Canada in the other semi-final. The Matildas, however, will have to do it without star defender Ellie Carpenter, who received a late red card.

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The first chance on Monday night came early for Sweden's Kosovare Aslanni. Her shot was bobbled by Teagan Micah, however, the goalkeeper recovered quickly to make the save.

Sweden continued to pile on early pressure, forcing two corners in the opening 10 minutes, but the Aussies stood firm at the back.

The game then settled into a pattern, as both sides looked to control possession. Highlights included Alanna Kennedy taking an ambitious shot from halfway, but her attempt swung wide.

In the 22nd minute, Rolfo whipped in a dangerous cross which evaded a Swedish teammate. Rolfo then wound up from outside the box a minute later, with her shot rattling the woodwork.

Sweden survived a huge scare when Kerr beat goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl out wide, but she couldn't find a teammate inside the box. Minutes later, Kennedy fired one in following a free kick, forcing Lindahl to make a superb save.

There was controversy when Kerr appeared to have scored before the break, but the referee blew the whistle for an illegal block. Tameka Yallop then put in a great cross for Kerr, with her header shaving the edge of the posts.

Yallop also had a long-range shot on goal that just missed, before the Aussies held out a late Swedish chance. Despite both sides having their chances, the score remained 0-0 at half time.

While they had absorbed pressure before the break, Sweden came out firing in the second half. Fillipa Angeldal put through a dangerous shot which hit the cross bar off a deflection, catching Micah off guard, before Rolfo tapped home their opening goal.

Steph Catley put in a great cross at the other end, with Kerr and Kyah Simon both lurking inside the box, but they couldn't capitalise on the opportunity. Kerr continued to loom large. A brilliant cross from Carpenter found her captain's head, but her shot found Lindahl's gloves.

After holding on in defence, Sweden were able to settle and force a couple of corners at the other end. The game then turned into a cat and mouse battle, as the Matildas looked to control possession while Sweden retained their structure across the field.

Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson made a triple change with 20 minutes remaining, with experienced defender Claire Polkinghorne and exciting teenagers Mary Fowler and Kyra Cooney-Cross replacing Chloe Logarzo, Yallop and Simon.

Fowler immediately looked threatening, with her first attempt swinging wide of the mark. Catley also fired away following a deflection, which was gloved away by Lindahl.

However, the Matildas continued to press hard, forcing a couple of corners. Heading into the final 10 minutes, Fowler looked dangerous while Cooney-Cross also caused headaches in attack, putting in a lovely through ball which nearly found Kerr.

In stoppage time, Rolfo put through a wonderful low cross for Stina Blackstenius, but the Swedish forward was unable to put the icing on the cake.

Salt was then rubbed into Australia's wounds when Carpenter received a red card in the dying minutes, meaning she will miss Thursday's bronze medal playoff.

This story Matildas to battle for Olympic bronze following gritty loss to Sweden first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.