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Australia Opens Women's World Cup With A 1-0 Win Over Ireland, Despite Sam Kerr's Absence

Steph Catley swept home a 52nd-minute penalty to end Ireland’s resistance and spark an eruption of joy from fans inside Stadium Australia.

The Sydney result meant both co-hosts started the tournament with wins.
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Rocked by the late withdrawal of Sam Kerr through injury, Australia needed time to settle before getting off to a winning start at the Women’s World Cup on Thursday with a 1-0 victory over Ireland. (More Football News)

Steph Catley swept home a 52nd-minute penalty to end Ireland’s resistance and spark an eruption of joy from fans inside Stadium Australia.

There was also no shortage of relief from the majority of the 75,784-strong crowd after the tournament co-hosts struggled to cope without the country’s all-time leading scorer Kerr, who will also miss the second game of Group B against Nigeria because of a calf injury.

By the final whistle Kerr was on the field, arm-in-arm with her teammates as they gathered in celebration after being pushed to the limit by Ireland.

The crowd only learned of Kerr’s injury about an hour before kick off.

The Chelsea striker sustained the injury in practice on Wednesday and it is not certain she will be back to face Canada in the team’s last Group B game in Melbourne on July 31, with medical staff waiting to assess her recovery.

Mary Fowler, who has Irish heritage, replaced Kerr in Australia’s attack, but while the Manchester City forward is a highly-rated prospect, the absence of the team’s iconic captain was clear.

Kerr was considered one of the stars of the tournament and the face of the Matildas’ bid to be crowned world champions for the first time. Without her leading the attack against Ireland, Australia appeared short of ideas or cutting edge.

Despite the roars of encouragement from inside the stadium, the home team rarely looked like opening the scoring in the first half.

The Australians were gifted the chance to take an lead shortly after the break when Marissa Sheva bundled Hayley Raso to the ground in the area.

Referee Edina Alves pointed to the penalty spot and Catley converted by sending Ireland goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan the wrong way as she calmly finished with her left foot.

Ireland, playing in its first World Cup, had beaten Australia in the teams’ last meeting, winning 3-2 in a friendly in Dublin in 2021.

And by the end Australia needed goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold to help hold off a series of late attacks in search of an equalizer.

The Sydney result meant both co-hosts started the tournament with wins, after New Zealand beat Norway 1-0 in an emotional opening day in Auckland.

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