Canada thump second-string Matildas to start Christine Sinclair farewell in style

<span>Photograph: Chad Hipolito/AP</span>
Photograph: Chad Hipolito/AP

In the 64th minute of Canada’s win over Australia on Friday night local time, the sold-out crowd finally got what they came to see. Christine Sinclair, for the penultimate time, came onto the pitch to represent her country.

Just moments prior, Adriana Leon had somehow been afforded an island of space inside the Matildas’ six-yard box to head home Sydney Collins’ centring ball to make it 5-0 for the hosts, the game’s ultimate scoreline. A buoyant moment on a magnificent night for Canadian football. And a sequence representative of the outright domination they had held over the second-string side run out by their opponents.

As a friendly, this won’t erase the memories of the 4-0 thrashing at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium that eliminated Canada from the World Cup earlier this year. But given that for large stretches of her legendary 23-year career, Sinclair had effectively been Canadian women’s football and now, after cajoling by friends and family to accept a farewell tour, she was getting her flowers, it was clear just how important this game and securing the win was for her teammates.

Related: Canada 5-0 Australia: international women’s friendly – as it happened

After 10 minutes at Starlight Stadium, a disastrous exchange between debutant Charlize Rule and Clare Polkinghorne saw the former robbed of the ball by Nichelle Prince, who calmly slotted the ball beyond Tegan Micah for the lead; an exchange emblematic of how the vast majority of the game unfolded.

For while it would take until the 43rd minute for the Canadians to add another, the speed of the Canada attack bringing Australia undone as Prince smartly finished an Ashley Lawrence cutback from the right with a first-time effort that beat Micah at her near post, they were just flat out better in every facet of the game. Their press was better. They were more decisive on the ball. They weren’t making the same silly skill errors as the green and gold side.

Even without the added emotional impetus of Sinclair’s farewell, though, what transpired in British Columbia perhaps shouldn’t have been surprising. Not once the teamsheets were delivered. Whereas Beverly Priestman rolled out a relatively strong starting XI for the home side, her opposite number Tony Gustavsson instead opted to place what ostensibly is his entire first-choice XI on the bench to start the game. While Rule and midfielder Sarah Hunter made their international debuts, the 431 collective caps Gustavsson’s lineup possessed was the second-lowest total of his entire reign.

The Swede had spoken before the game, reiterated by Football Australia in an attempted exercise in expectation management, that this game was about experimentation and load management. ‘Finding’ players in the face of adversity. But one wonders just how much Gustavsson will have been able to learn about any of these players given how a lineup that had never played together before, against an experienced and emotionally charged opponent, had a lack of cohesion that was ruthlessly exposed by the Canadians. It felt less like an experiment and more like lambs to wolves.

Four minutes into the second stanza, a disastrous turnover from Hunter allowed Cloé Lacasse to skip in and make it three. In the 55th minute, Simi Awujo seized upon Rule’s attempted clearing header and was afforded all the time in the world to tee up an effort from the top of the box. It was only when Leon found the net to make it five and Mary Fowler, Katrina Gorry, Kyra Cooney-Cross, Alanna Kennedy and Hayley Raso were introduced that the game settled down for Australia.

Fowler produced their first shot of the game, one of the two they would finish with, in the 74th minute. In contrast, Canada would have 19, with eight on target, and based on the way they played they were probably unlucky not to have a few more goals to go with it.

Certainly, when Sinclair inevitably starts the final game of her Canadian career, against what will likely be a stronger Australian side, the aim will be to ensure that she finds the net for international goal 191 and seals 23 straight years of scoring at the international level.