Football Ferns 1
A new era – but an all too familiar result for the Football Ferns.
In the first game of Jitka Klimkova's tenure, New Zealand fell 5-1 to Canada on Sunday.
It was always going to be a tough ask against the Olympic champions, but too many of the Ferns' experienced players were below their best, which made for an even tougher afternoon.
New Zealand looked defensively fragile for most of the match – undoubtedly missing the presence of Abby Erceg - though Canada were given a leg up with a penalty and a keeper error for their first two goals.
But the scoreline reflected Canada's dominance, with a 70th minute Ria Percival penalty restoring a little pride for the New Zealand team.
The tireless Percival was one of the few to emerge with credit, with Meikayla Moore and Olivia Chance also having some good moments, while Amelia Abbott, Ava Collins and Jacqui Hand had their first bows on the international scene.
Goalkeeper Erin Nayler was at fault for Canada's second but made up for that with some top saves in the second half.
The match was the start of a celebration tour for the North Americans, and featured an elongated buildup, as each member of the gold medal winning team was introduced to the crowd at TD Arena in Ottawa before the match.
New Zealand haven't beaten Canada since 1987, with twin losses in 2019 (0-3 and 0-2) the most recent results.
The Ferns had a couple of bright moments early on – with fullback CJ Bott testing goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe – before Canada started to find their rhythm.
The North Americans began to easily find space between the lines, sweeping upfield as they targeted the space in behind Ali Riley. Nichelle Prince had a couple of chances, before veteran Christine Sinclair won a penalty, after the ball was allowed to bounce in the area.
It was harsh for Daisy Cleverly, as the ball reared sharply off the artificial turf, but her arm was away from her body, leaving the referee with no option and Jessie Fleming dispatched the spot kick.
The Ferns came under increasing pressure after Canada went ahead. They struggled to retain possession and were guilty of falling back too far, with two blocks of four.
It meant that the Canadians were rarely under pressure on the ball, allowed to pick their pass at will, with the best chance coming with a goal bound Sinclair shot being cleared off the line by Katie Bowen.
However, New Zealand had some promising first half forays. Cleverly had a shot blocked from the edge of the area, Riley was well tackled as she burst into the area and Betsy Hassett got free near the byline, before her attempted cross was deflected.
Canada's second goal was a gift, with Sinclair tucking away a half volley after Nayler dropped the ball at her feet. The keeper was slightly impeded by Moore, but had to do better, though she had looked uncomfortable moments as she split a corner moments earlier.
Klimkova made two halftime changes, with forwards Gabi Rennie and debutant Jacqui Hand brought on for Rosie White and Emma Rolston, but Canada quickly reasserted their dominance, while the Ferns were guilty of some sloppy passing as they seemed to tire.
They were undone further when Prince nipped in to score a deserved third in the 57th minute, as the Ferns defence were caught on their heels. Bowen played the Canadian striker onside, while Bott was guilty of ball watching, allowing Prince to ghost in behind her and round Nayler.
New Zealand's goal came against the run of play, but was reward for the intent of rookie Ava Collins, who was clipped as she chased Riley's high ball into the area.
Percival tucked the penalty away, marking the first Ferns goal against Canada since 2009
That should have lifted the Ferns, but the reshaped Canadian team, with a slew of changes in the second half, restored their three goal buffer minutes later, with the best move of the match, finished neatly by Adriana Leon. Leon added the fifth in the 82nd minute, as Riley and Bowen caught out of position.
New Zealand 1 (Ria Percival 70' pen)
Canada 5 (Jessie Fleming 12' pen, Christine Sinclair 41', Nichelle Prince 57', Adriana Leon 74', 82')