Australia began their FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign with a 1-0 victory over Republic of Ireland, following in the footsteps of fellow co-hosts New Zealand, who took down Norway earlier in the day.
Steph Catley scored from the penalty spot shortly after half-time to secure a vital Group B win for the Matildas.
A fairly cagey first half saw Australia, whose star striker Sam Kerr was missing through injury, largely reduced to chances from set pieces, as a well-drilled Irish defence held firm on their global finals debut.
Ireland captain Katie McCabe’s full-blooded battle with Hayley Raso defined a combative first-half in which the Matildas’ best chance came from a Katrina Gorry pot-shot from range.
It took the co-hosts just six minutes to break Ireland’s resistance after the break. Raso was clumsily pushed over by Marissa Sheva in the box – giving Steph Catley the chance smash home the opener from the spot.
The Girls in Green responded by making attacking changes to try and rescue a result, but were unable to break through a defence that coach Tony Gustavsson shored up by introducing veteran Clare Polkinghorne in the final stages.
Megan Connolly’s late free kick hit the roof of Australia’s net, and McCabe’s last-second chance was scuffed towards goal, but after a hard-fought 96 minutes, the final whistle went to the delight of the Sydney crowd.