The Matilda’s second leg match against Vietnam started in bizarre circumstances, with the venue’s power shutting off 50 seconds after kickoff.
After convincingly winning their opening match in front of 14,014 fans in Newcastle on Friday, the Australian squad travelled to Quang Ninh for Wednesday’s second leg.
The match at Cam Pha Stadium was to be played behind closed doors due to growing fear of the coronavirus outbreak. Therefore, the Matildas walked onto the pitch and sang the national anthem with zero spectators in attendance.
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The national anthems were almost silentSource:Getty Images
Kick-off was initially delayed due to a power outage, but the match eventually got underway five minutes later than scheduled.
However, 50 seconds after the opening whistle, the venue’s light went out once again, leaving the players competing in pitch black.
One Australian cried, “Keep playing” in the darkness, another yelling, “We can’t see anything”.
Former Matilda Amy Duggan admitted she had “never seen anything like it” during the Fox Sports coverage.
#Matildas game blackout reminding me of a game in Malaysia. Midway through the half the lights went out. We stood on the pitch and played 30 minutes of stoppage time #storytime
in the fair dinkum department, this is an utter shambles. this is international football, we're not playing for sheep stations #VIEvAUS
After about 20 minutes of darkness, the floodlights slowly started reviving, play eventually resuming in Quang Ninh.
In the 15th minute, superstar striker Sam Kerr scored the match’s opening goal, giving Australia a 1-0 lead and placing her at second on the Matildas’ all-time goal-scorers list with 42 in her 88-match career.
The crowd in Cam Pha StadiumSource:Getty Images
A statement released by Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) on Friday said the match organiser decided not to open ticket sales to the public “due to the complicated development of COVID-19 outbreak”.
“Spectators should not come to the stadium area … avoid large public gatherings, to ensure effective prevention of the outbreak,” the statement read.
VFF General Secretary Le Hoai Anh told AFP that “only accredited people can attend the game”.
Vietnam last month suspended all sporting competitions in the country to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams said beyond general safety precautions, the Matildas’ training and preparation had been relatively undisturbed.
“We’re going to go out whether there would be a crowd or not, so I think everyone’s looking forward to it and it’s just business as normal,” Williams said on Monday.
“Everyone has their own hand sanitiser — so just making sure you wash your hands and then hand sanitise them a number of times a day, obviously before and after meals and then whenever you think you need it.
The Matildas team for Wednesday’s matchSource:Getty Images
“We’ve been taking precautions basically since Sydney for the first round of Olympic qualifiers when we heard about the coronavirus — so we’ve been aware of it since then, so really this isn’t much different than what we were doing whilst in Sydney.”
The Matildas are on the verge of qualifying for Tokyo Olympics after thrashing Vietnam 5-0 in the first leg of their playoff at home.
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