(Reuters) – Australia took a huge stride towards securing a spot at the women’s soccer tournament at this year’s Olympic Games as Ante Milicic’s side handed Vietnam a 5-0 thrashing in the first leg of their final eliminator for the tournament in Tokyo.
Chelsea striker Sam Kerr gave the Matildas the perfect start 10 minutes into the game in Newcastle in Australia.
Goals from Chloe Logarzo, Emily van Egmond and Clare Polkinghorn before Kerr’s late penalty, earned the Australians a significant advantage ahead of the return leg in Vietnam on March 11.
Kerr put Australia ahead when she powered a header beyond Tran Thi Kim Thanh after an inviting cross from the right by Ellie Carpenter and soon after the Vietnamese squandered a chance to level the scores when Pham Thi Tuoi slid her close-range effort wide of the post.
Three minutes before the half-hour mark, Logarzo doubled the home side’s lead when she slotted the ball between Kim Thanh’s legs after van Egmond’s header looped into her path.
With seven minutes left in the half, Van Egmond made it 3-0 with a deflected header that left Vietnam seeking to limit the damage as much as possible ahead of the second leg.
However, Polkinghorn increased Australia’s advantage midway through the second half when she smashed the ball into the roof of the net after a quickly taken corner caught out the Vietnamese defence.
Kerr then put the result beyond any doubt from the spot as she thumped the ball home from 12 yards after substitute Hayley Raso was upended by Tran Thi Phuong Thao.
The two teams meet again next Wednesday while China and South Korea will face off next month to determine Asia’s third participant at the Games. Japan have already qualified for the 12-team tournament as hosts.
(Reporting by Michael Church; Editing by Robert Birsel)