Football Ferns improve but fall to another loss

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 27 Oct 2021, 3:32PM
Football Fern CJ Bott in action against Canada. (Photo / Photosport)
Football Fern CJ Bott in action against Canada. (Photo / Photosport)

Football Ferns improve but fall to another loss

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 27 Oct 2021, 3:32PM

If the Football Ferns are on a long-term journey, this was a small step in the right direction. 

They have fallen again to Canada but were at least much more competitive in the 1-0 loss on Wednesday. 

They still lacked quality and end product in the final third but were more convincing across the park. 

After being blown away for long periods of Sunday's 5-1 defeat, they were in this contest, though Canada was always in control after going ahead in the 15th minute. 

New Zealand were defensively much better, even if Canada missed a couple of good chances. There was more intensity from the Ferns and increased cohesion, especially among the midfield trio. 

They were more successful in keeping the ball, though the passing accuracy left a lot to be desired. 

Ria Percival was the Ferns' best – by a country mile – setting the template for the rest of her teammates. She was a class above, with and without possession, and generally always where she needed to be. 

Young keeper Anna Leat showed her worth, with her calm and accurate distribution, while Katie Bowen and Meikayla Moore were assured in central defence. CJ Bott showed impressive energy from right back, with tireless work up and down the line, though captain Ali Riley was less prominent on the other flank. 

As signalled, coach Jitka Klimková made several changes, with Leat coming in for Erin Nailery and Gabi Rennie and Jacqui Hand introduced into the front trio. Canada also made several adjustments, with four new faces in their starting XI. 

From the outset, the Ferns looked sharper, hungrier and more organised, as Klimková had promised. They pushed higher, trying to press and were successful in winning possession at times. 

They gave the Ferns some time on the ball, which they looked to circulate. 

But their positive start was undone by a soft goal, with Canada's first clear opportunity. 

After a quick turnover, Canada's midfield were allowed too much space, and Adriana Leon tucked home the rebound, after Leat partially saved her first attempt. 

It was a shame – as the Ferns had begun assertively – but continued a pattern of early goals with this squad. 

They were fortunate not to fall further behind, as referee Diana Perez either missed – or generously ignored – Moore's unfortunate handball, as the centre back fell awkwardly in the area. 

Percival provided a first half highlight with a superb effort from distance. From a throw in, the Spurs player powered forward before unleashing a drive from 25 metres on the angle, that keeper Stephanie Labbe was at full stretch to tip over the cross bar. 

Apart from that, there were half chances to Hand and Chance, though nothing that tested Labbe. 

Rosie White was introduced in the 40th minute for Rennie, though an injury wasn't immediately apparent. 

The Ferns' quality dropped in the second half, particularly with their passing, while both teams seemed to feel the effect of a second game in less than 72 hours. 

Jordyn Huitema should have extended Canada's lead when she was released – with Leat caught in no man's land - but pushed her shot wide, while Leon had earlier drawn a solid save from Leat. 

Hannah Blake, Emma Rolston and Ava Collins were introduced late in the second half, with Blake lifting a shot over the bar from the edge of the area in the 85th minute as the Ferns hustled towards the finish. 

Football Ferns 0 
Canada 1 (Adriana Leon 15') 

Halftime: 1-0