Matildas edge closer to Olympic dream following thrilling draw with China

JUBILANT: Caitlin Foord (second from right) and her Matildas teammates embrace after Emily van Egmond drills home a goal to draw level at 1-all against China on Thursday night. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
JUBILANT: Caitlin Foord (second from right) and her Matildas teammates embrace after Emily van Egmond drills home a goal to draw level at 1-all against China on Thursday night. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

It was far from convincing, but Alanna Kennedy's Matildas have taken a giant step towards Tokyo 2020.

With the clock ticking down, a sweet strike by Emily van Egmond in the 92nd minute helped Australia salvage a 1-all draw with China PR at Bankwest Stadium on Thursday night.

The result means Australia finishes top of Group B and will face a sudden-death playoff over two legs against Vietnam next month.

The Matildas only needed a draw to seal first position, but it was far from a dour contest in Parramatta.

In a see-sawing battle, both teams had plenty of attacking chances. They combined for 34 shows on goal while Australia dominated 70 per cent of possession.

Foord, 25, could be seen as Australia's barometre in an eventful night for the Shellharbour talent.

Highlights included a beautiful long ball to a flying Hayley Raso in the 61st minute which nearly set up a goal. Two minutes later, Foord was caught in two minds between shooting for goal and setting up teammate Sam Kerr, as the ball went past the woodwork.

Foord was also happy to drop back at times during the game and help out in defence.

However, Foord's night was soured by a strong challenge with Chinese defender Li Ying early in the second half, which saw the Matilda receive a yellow card.

The moment summed up Australia's aggressive nature in the second half as they pressed hard for goal, which in turn made their defence a little vulnerable.

It was noticeable that the Matildas were more cramped for space than compared to their previous two games against Chinese Taipei and Thailand.

Neither side gave an inch in both halves, but China was particularly physical in the opening half.

The teams both had half a dozen goal attempts in the first half. China's best chance to take the lead in the 45th minute when Wang Shanshan's long range shot hit the woodwork.

Despite the best efforts of both teams, neither side was able to hit the scoreboard in the opening 85 minutes.

The game then appeared destined for heart break for Australian fans when China's Jilia Tang drilled home a goal in the 86th minute.

However, the Australians continued to press hard and were rewarded when van Egmond found the back of the net to force a draw.

Hayley Raso looked dangerous for most of the night - despite being left with a bleeding nose early - while Ellie Carpenter, Elise Kellond-Knight and goalkeeper Lydia Williams were also among Australia's standouts.

For their opponents, Li Ying, Wang Shanshan and Jiali Tang were constant threats for the Matildas' defence.