An Elise Kellond-Knight miss from the penalty spot and a sizzling 84th-minute strike from Kumi Yokayama combined to consign the Matildas to a heart-breaking 1-0 loss to Japan in the AFC Asian Cup final on Saturday morning (AEST).
Super-sub Yokayama’s clinical strike was Japan’s only shot on goal in the second stanza as the Matildas left Amman Stadium empty-handed despite dominating for large chunks of the contest.
The Australians, led by Sam Kerr, dominated the early exchanges and had a golden chance to take the lead in the 15th minute when Tameka Butt’s strike hit the arm of Saki Kumagai inside the penalty box.
But Japan goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita saved Kellond-Knight’s spot in what would prove a pivotal moment in the tournament.
Yamashita had previously denied Kerr’s strike while Emily van Egmond pushed a shot wide in the ninth minute as the Aussies dominated early.
But the missed penalty swung momentum as the Japanese started asking their own questions, with Kerr blocking a shot before custodian Lydia Williams produced a top-class save to keep the scores level midway through the first half.
The Matildas regained control after the break and appeared far more likely to break the deadlock before Yokayama broke Australian hearts with the decisive strike.