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Jun 24, 2012

Inexperienced Matildas draw with NZ

Matildas coach Tom Sermanni praised his players' fighting spirit after Australia earned a last-gasp 1-1 draw with Olympic-bound New Zealand in Wollongong on Sunday.

The Football Ferns looked on track for their first women's soccer international win over the Matildas since 1994, before defender Thea Slatyer's header found the net in the 93rd minute.

With Australia trailing 1-0 late, New Zealand goalkeeper Jenny Bindon was forced to make two brilliant one-handed saves to deny Laura Alleway and teenager Hayley Raso.

But just when it looked like the Football Ferns would break the long-standing drought against an understrength Australian squad - missing a wealth of international players currently involved in overseas club campaigns - Slatyer came the rescue.

"There's a great deal of character (in the squad)," Sermanni said.

"We've got a lot of debutants and inexperience in the team. We've got a bright future ahead.

"Given the circumstances, I was pleased with the number of chances we created.

"We haven't played together much at all.

"New Zealand are right a the peak of their preparation for the Olympics, very well organised and well drilled."

New Zealand won the Oceania confederation to book their spot for London, but Australia missed out in Asian qualification.

After a scoreless first half, New Zealand were controlling possession after the break and looking threatening.

Hayley Moorwood combined with Hannah Wilkinson in the box without success, then pulled the trigger herself straight at Matildas keeper Melissa Barbieri.

But the pressure finally told in the 50th minute when Moorwood headed back at the near post, leaving Barbieri a helpless spectator.

The Matildas refused to give in, though, and the fightback left Sermanni upbeat about the future.

"(The draw is) incredibly significant," he said.

"It will give the players, especially the new ones, a lot of confidence."

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