The final score, 2-0 to New Zealand was a fair reflection on the performance of the World Cup Finalists, against a Welsh side that included a debut cap for Helen Bleazard of Bristol Academy.
In front of a crowd of some 500 people in the picturesque village of Saviese, New Zealand started quickly and took the lead after only 9 minutes, when Wales failed to deal with a cross from the left that was headed-home by Kiwi centre-forward Amber Hearn. The Wales marking had gone ‘walk-about’ and it set the tone for the rest of the first half, as the all-whites had a succession of corners from which they could have added several more goals.
Wales forward, Gwen Harries of Everton failed to last the first half and was substituted on the half-hour as she continued her return to full fitness after missing the last few weeks of the season.
Debutant Helen Bleazard of Bristol Academy had a mixed first forty-five minutes on the left side of the Welsh midfield as she tried to come to terms with the pace of international football. Jess Fishlock, her club colleague was also frustrated for long periods in the first half as little fell her way. The New Zealanders were faster to the ball and used their possession well to start frequent attacks. Defender Ria Percival crossed well from the flank to set-up any number of chances that were not taken by her forward for New Zealand.
A half-time pep-talk by Wales coach, Jarmo Matikainen, seemed to have helped as the team in red showed new vigour in the opening twenty minutes and began to match their opponents in many areas of the pitch.
The killer-blow came in the 70th minute when Wales conceded a free kick around five yards outside the penalty area. From the resulting free kick, the Kiwi full-back, Anna Green, shot over the wall and the ball ended up in the far corner of the net, beating Wales keeper Rhian Nokes (Cardiff City). She will feel disappointed to have been beaten from some twenty yards out.
The final twenty minutes saw an even exchange between the two teams, as various substitutions were made. All-in-all a disappointing start, though it has to be said that New Zealand were well above Wales in the World Rankings and so it would not be too much of a surprise with the final score.
Wales now face Denmark in Apples on Saturday afternoon in the second game. A match that will be the 100th senior Women’s international for Wales. The other side in the tourament is Columbia.
1. Rhian Nokes. 2. Kylie Davies. 3. Sophie Ingle. 5. Emma Jones ©. 6. Nia Jones. 7. Loren Dykes. 9. Helen Lander. 10. Gwen Harries. 11. Jess Fishlock. 15. Sally Wade. 17. Helen Bleazard. Subs: 19. Cheryl Foster (For Harries 29m), 14. Amie Lea (For Dykes 63m), 16. Natasha Harding (For Bleazard 63m), 18. Hayley Ladd (For Lander 87m). Not Used: 12. Sophie Dando, 4. Kerrie Manley. 13. Lauren Price. 20. Laura-May Walkley.
1. Jenny Bindon. 2. Ria Percival. 3. Anna Green. 4. Katie Hoyle. 5. Abby Erceg. 6. Rebecca Smith. 7. Ali Riley. 9. Amber Hearn. 10. Sarah Gregorious. 12. Betsy Hassett. 17. Hannah Wilkinson. Subs: 13. Rosie White (For Gregorious 45m), 8. Hayley Moorwood (For Hoyle 45m), 15. Emma Keate (For Wilkinson 45m), 16. Annalie Longon (For Hearn 64m), 18. Katie Bowen (For Percival 68m).
Officials: Referee: Simona Ghisletta, Assistant Referees: Ferhat Arslan & Nicholas Vecchiette. Fourth Official: Rui Mestre (All from Switzerland).
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