Adriana Leon scores twice to lead Canada past Australia in women's soccer friendly

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SYDNEY, Australia — Adriana Leon, finding the target for the third time in two games, scored twice Tuesday to give Canada a 2-1 comeback win over Australia in a women's soccer friendly.

The 12th-ranked Australians pressed No. 7 Canada and were quick on the counter-attack in taking a 1-0 first-half lead. But the Canadians came out with renewed purpose after the break, pulling ahead on Leon goals in the 48th and 64th minute before some 27,000 at the newly rebuilt Allianz Stadium.

The 29-year-old from King City, Ont., who plays her club football for Manchester United, has scored in three of Canada's last four games to up her total to 27 in 88 international appearances.

Mary Fowler opened the scoring for the Matildas, who looked a more combative side than the one beaten 1-0 Saturday by an 11th-minute Leon goal at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. But they had no answers as Canada rallied in the second half.

Australia, which will co-host next year's FIFA Women's World Cup with New Zealand, had its chances in the first game but could not beat goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan. Australia coach Tony Gustavsson lamented the missed opportunities, saying later his team could have scored three goals on another night.

Australia converted its first chance in the third minute Tuesday after Fowler intercepted a poor Sheridan clearance. Cortnee Vine then found star striker Sam Kerr, who attracted several defenders in the Canadian penalty box before cutting the ball back to an open Fowler. The 19-year-old Manchester City forward slotted a low shot past Sheridan for her eighth goal in 25 international appearances.

Vine did her part after the pass, continuing her run towards goal and drawing another defender that opened up space for Fowler.

Canada pulled even early in the second half when Leon poked in Christine Sinclair's cross. The Canada captain's first attempt to send the ball in front of goal hit a defender and bounced back to Sinclair, who found Leon with her second try.

A Nichelle Prince goal in the 53rd minute was ruled offside.

Teenage centre back Jade Rose set up Canada's second goal, making a surging run before splitting the defence with a pass that put Leon behind four defenders. Leon shot from the edge of the penalty box, beating goalkeeper Lydia Williams to the ball.

The 19-year-old Rose, who captained Canada at the recent FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Costa Rica, was making just her third senior appearance.

Quinn, who goes by one name, made a game-saving tackle in the 90th minute as Australia pressed for an equalizer. Canada then had to survive almost seven minutes of stoppage time.

Tuesday's game was the first soccer match at the 42,500-capacity, $736-million Allianz Stadium, following the National Rugby League contest between the Sydney Roosters and South Sydney Rabbitohs and the rugby union test between Australia and South Africa.

Australia had a shout for a penalty in the 37th minute when Caitlin Foord went down in contact with Marie Levasseur but South Korean referee Park Sejin was unmoved. Sheridan stopped a weak Vine shot soon after as the Canadian defence was breached again.

Foord cut into the Canadian penalty box in the 42nd minute before firing a low shot just wide. Canada failed to put a shot on target in the first half.

Canada coach Bev Priestman brought on Julia Grosso and Janine Beckie, replacing Desiree Scott and Levasseur, to start the second half.

The Canadians brought a depleted roster Down Under, with their entire starting backline absent thanks to injuries to defenders Kadeisha Buchanan, Vanessa Gilles, Jayde Riviere and Allysha Chapman, with Ashley Lawrence unavailable for personal reasons. Forward Deanne Rose is also injured.

Priestman made three changes to her starting 11 with Scott, Levasseur and Jade Rose coming in for Grosso, Beckie and Sura Yekka. Fullback Bianca St-Georges, who impressed in Brisbane, retained her place to earn her fifth cap.

Priestman's starting 11 Tuesday featured just four starters from the 2021 Olympic final in Tokyo: Sinclair, Scott, Prince and Jessie Fleming.

Priestman continued with her 4-2-3-1 formation with Fleming and Scott ahead of the back four with Prince, Sinclair and Leon behind striker Jordyn Huitema.

Sinclair, the world's all-time leading goal-scorer with 190, moved past American Carli Lloyd into sole possession of second place on the world's all-time appearance list with 317 caps. Former American international Kristine Lilly leads with 354 appearances.

Canada's 11 starters Tuesday combined for 967 caps, with Sinclair, Scott and Fleming combining for 607 of those.

Australia was also missing players.

Allianz Stadium and Suncorp Stadium will both host matches at next year's World Cup, which kicks off in July in 10 stadiums in nine host cities across Australia and New Zealand.

Canada will learn its path at the 32-country tournament at the draw in Auckland in October.

The Matildas were beaten 1-0 by Sweden in the Tokyo Olympic semifinal last summer and finished fourth after losing 1-0 to the U.S. in the bronze-medal game. Canada won gold, dispatching the Swedes 3-2 in a penalty shootout after the game finished knotted at 1-1.

The games in Australia were the first for Canada since July when it qualified for the World Cup by virtue of finishing runner-up to the top-ranked Americans at the CONCACAF W Championship in Mexico.

Canada improved to 8-2-3 in 2022, losing 1-0 to No. 8 Spain at the Arnold Clark Cup in February and 1-0 to the U.S. at the CONCACAF W Championship. The Canadians also took an 8-7-3 lead in the all-time series with Australia.

Priestman said prior to the game that she hopes the Canadian women will play again in October and November, likely in friendlies abroad.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 6, 2022

The Canadian Press