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Matildas boss demands more clinical edge in Olympics qualifier against Uzbekistan

The Matildas’ berth at the Paris Olympics is all but sealed – but coach Tony Gustavsson is demanding more ruthlessness in the second leg of Australia’s qualifier against Uzbekistan.

A late scoring blitz, with Michelle Heyman, Mary Fowler and Caitlin Foord finding the back of the net, delivered a 3-0 win in Tashkent and a huge lead ahead of Wednesday night’s clash in Melbourne.

But the Matildas were wasteful before Heyman broke through in the 72nd minute, and finished Saturday night’s game with eight out of 26 shots on target but just three goals to show for their dominance.

“We didn’t panic and get frustrated from not scoring in the first half,” Gustavsson said.

“But we left way too many goals on the table. Our conversion rate must have been really bad. We could have scored, we left a lot of goals out there.

“That needs to be better on Wednesday.”

Fowler was superb in the second half and scored in the 84th minute, while Foord headed home two minutes later to seal the victory.

“Probably some of it was to do with the lack of concentration at times,” Fowler said.

“People get a bit frustrated and that all points back to having patience. It was good for us to be able to turn that around and get goals in the second half.

“But even for myself, looking back at some of those chances in the first half, it’s just millimetres off and it’s a goal or it’s a better chance.”

Gustavsson stressed scoring three goals, combined with sealing a clean sheet, had just given his charges freedom to kick up a gear in Melbourne.

“We actually spoke about that going into this game, that this is the first half of two,” Gustavsson said.

“A lot of players have experienced playing Champions League when it’s the same thing when you play home and away and it’s a two-leg series, and you need to play that a bit different.

“So we said ‘let’s have a very, very focused, mature performance where we don’t give anything away in terms of the defending, focus and discipline, keep a clean sheet again.

“Then as a bonus, if we get some goals, we can come home in Australia, gear up and attack even more.’

“We’re being carried by the fans in the stands there and get the energy we get every time we play on home soil.”

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Heyman was delighted to score her first international goal in almost eight years and drag the Matildas one step closer to a place at the Paris Olympics.

Gustavsson turned to Canberra United star Heyman, to replace Emily van Egmond off the bench in the 65th minute, and the 35-year-old delivered just eight minutes later.

“I am so happy,” Heyman said.

“It’s just so nice to be back with the girls, back playing for my country and to come on and score a goal is a dream come true.

“It’s what I wanted and I am so happy to get it done.”

Australia were due to head directly to Dubai after the match, then share a flight with their Uzbek opponents to Melbourne.

“It’s going to be amazing. I’ve already pictured the atmosphere in that stadium and what it’s going to be like and I think the players are going to thrive under that a lot,” Gustavsson said.

After experiencing near-freezing conditions in Tashkent, both teams could deal with temperatures up to 36 degrees in Melbourne on Wednesday.

“I definitely prefer this,” Fowler said, adding with a laugh: “I’m a lot more acclimatised to the cold now so I might die in Australia, actually!”

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