England’s Women were held to a 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage by Australia, courtesy of Clare Polkinghorne’s late header.
Less than 96 hours after scoring during Phil Neville’s side’s 1-0 win over Brazil in Nottingham on Saturday, Chelsea forward Kirby got the opening goal of the match midway through the first half.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, Polkinghorne headed in Elise Kellond-Knight’s corner through the legs of Mary Earps to earn a late draw for the Matildas.
Arsenal’s Beth Mead also deserved to score for the Lionesses, with one effort being cleared off the line and also being harshly not awarded a penalty before half-time.
With England being ranked as the third-best nation in the world, the draw comes against a top-10 side, the second one they have faced in the space of three days, with Brazil and Australia currently in eighth and sixth positions respectively.
Blues striker Kirby opened the scoring midway through the first half. She showed a lot of composure just a day after making 15-strong shortlist to win the 2018 Women’s Ballon d’Or award. Australia goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold’s misplaced clearance found the feet of Mead, who quickly squared the ball to Kirby and she showed a lot of composure before firing past Arnold.
The hosts came close to doubling their lead just over 10 minutes later through Mead. After Steph Houghton’s header from Alex Greenwood’s corner was saved, Mead’s follow-up appeared to cross the line, although the referee did not let the goal stand.
Kirby was again involved as England thought they had doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time. After being sent through on goal, Kirby unselfishly squared the ball to Birmingham City’s Lucy Staniforth, who put the ball int an empty net, only for it to be disallowed for offside.
Seconds later, Mead showed great trickery to beat two Australia defenders before being bundled over in the penalty area, but the incident did not warrant French referee Florence Guillemin to award a spot-kick, much to the annoyance of the six thousand-strong home crowd.
Alen Stajcic’s side’s first clear-cut chance came shortly after the interval when Princess Ibini-Isei was sent through on goal, but her effort was superbly denied by Wolfsburg’s Mary Earps.
Kirby almost doubled England’s tally on the hour-mark after guiding the ball around Arnold, only for her effort to be cleared by the Australian defender, Clare Polkinghorne.
Five minutes after striker Rachel Daly was introduced as a substitute, she came agonisingly close to scoring with an audacious effort from Greenwood’s cross, which narrowly cleared the frame of the goal.
With only six minutes remaining, Polkinghorne got on the end of Australia captain Kellond-Knight’s corner and her header proved to be too fast for Earps to handle.
There were four Chelsea players in Neville’s squad, whilst Kirby started the match, Carly Telford, Millie Bright and Hannah Blundell were all unused substitutes.
The Lionesses will now return to their club sides, with their next international friendly coming against Sweden at Rotherham United’s AESSEAL New York Stadium next month.