Princess Ibini is all smiles as she celebrates her first-ever goal for the Matildas
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Australia may have put the horror of last week’s 7-0 thrashing at the hands of Spain behind them, but a controversial 87th minute goal to Portugal ensured the Matildas could only draw the contest 1-1.

In their first meeting since 2018, and fourth overall, the hosts enjoyed the majority of possession and chances in the opening half at the Estadio Antonio Coimbra da Mota in Estoril, Portugal.

It had many fans wondering whether Australia would begin to crumble like the seven goal rout to Spain on Sunday – but they lifted in the second half.

It was Princess Ibini-Isei who broke the deadlock in the 73rd minute, with the 22-year-old scoring her first goal for the Matildas off a lovely cross from Emily Gielnick. 

Princess Ibini is all smiles as she celebrates her first-ever goal for the Matildas

Princess Ibini is all smiles as she celebrates her first-ever goal for the Matildas

Ibini finishes the perfectly weighted cross expertly in the 73rd minute

Ibini finishes the perfectly weighted cross expertly in the 73rd minute

Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson sung the praises of his exciting winger, the sister of Socceroo Bernie Ibini-Isei, after the game.

‘Princess is a game-changer, coming in at halftime and not only scoring but showing that she wanted to be a part of this and that’s something we talked a lot about,’ he said of Ibini. 

Admittedly Australia could have found themselves reduced to 10 on the field, after the referee appeared to give the wrong player a yellow card for a foul on Portugal midfielder Tatiana Pinto on the edge of the box.

Matildas defender Courtney Nevin (left) competes for the ball with Diana Silver (right)

Matildas defender Courtney Nevin (left) competes for the ball with Diana Silver (right)

Courtney Nevin, who was already on a yellow card, appeared to make contact with Pinto; but it was Charlotte Grant who was given the infringement despite protesting her innocence.

There were a number of questionable refereeing decisions in the match, but the yellow card fiasco was far from the worst blunder.

Substitute Telma Encarnacao scored for Portugal with just minutes left in the match after a sloppy turnover by the Matildas – but replays showed she was very clearly offside.

Replays showed Encarnacao was clearly off-side before she scored the equaliser

Replays showed Encarnacao was clearly off-side before she scored the equaliser

Given the game was a friendly, no VAR was able to be used – so the goal stood, something broadcast host Tara Rushton was not pleased with.

‘Matildas robbed … looked pretty off-side to me!’ she said on Channel 10’s broadcast.

Commentator Andy Harper agreed, though he did lay some of the blame at the feet of the Matildas defenders for the sloppy turnoever.

‘She was clearly off-side, receives the ball and scores. That’s not going to stand in the Euros or World Cup (where they have VAR),’ he said of the goal. 

Telma Encarnacao looks to the skies after scoring the equaliser in the 87th minute

Telma Encarnacao looks to the skies after scoring the equaliser in the 87th minute

Encarnacao could have won the game for Portugal in the last seconds of the game, but Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams, captaining the side in her 100th cap, managed to hold her nerve and stop the ball. 

It meant the score stayed 1-1, a far cry from the 7-nil thrashing a hapless Australian side copped on the weekend. 

Charlotte Grant (left) puts in a challenge against Andreia Jacinto (right)

Charlotte Grant (left) puts in a challenge against Andreia Jacinto (right)

Former Matilda Thea Slatyer said the side should be pleased with the way they responded to the drubbing.  

‘We showed tremendous resilience … we should be very happy with that. Questionable with the offside, however there were some errors with our defensive set-up that led to it,’ she said after the game.

‘It was a different team, they were completely composed and confident.’

Emily Gielnik (right) was very impressive for the Matildas down the right wing

Emily Gielnik (right) was very impressive for the Matildas down the right wing

While Gustavsson was disappointed the side couldn’t get the win, he was very pleased with the fortitude the side showed. 

‘I have mixed emotions, to be honest. I’m very disappointed that we lost this game, considering we were up one-nil with very few minutes left,’ he said after the game. 

‘I think the mental strength of the group to bounce back from that Spain result.

‘A lot of teams would be devastated, low in energy and maybe stopped believing, but there’s a really true belief in this core group of staff and a core group of players and they know that we need to go through this tough experience to come out a better team,’ said Gustavsson.

Tony Gustavsson yells instructions to the players from the sidelines during the game

Tony Gustavsson yells instructions to the players from the sidelines during the game

It was by no means a full-strength Australian side, but depth will be key as the squad prepares for a home World Cup in 2023.

It was been a mixed year for the Matildas so far after unexpectedly crashing out in the quarter finals of the Asian Cup.

Two wins over New Zealand, the drubbing from Spain and a draw against Portugal, who are ranked 18 spots lower, show there is still some work to be done if the Matildas are to complete a fairy-tale World Cup win next year. 

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