Australia ended England’s 30-game unbeaten streak with a 2-0 friendly victory over the Lionesses in front of 14,489 at Brentford’s Gtech Community Stadium.
The world number-four ranked Lionesses, who lifted the inaugural women’s Finalissima trophy at Wembley last week, were favourites to beat the 10th-ranked but injury-plagued Matildas.
But Sarina Wiegman’s side were behind at the break after Chelsea striker Sam Kerr took advantage of an error from Leah Williamson and Charlotte Grant made it two after the restart with a nodded effort that deflected off the England captain.
It was the last scheduled match for European champions England ahead of the World Cup in New Zealand and Australia, where the Lionesses begin their campaign against Haiti in just over 100 days.
Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson had elected to rest Kerr for the Matidas’ 1-0 loss in Friday’s Scotland friendly so she was fresh to face England.
It was the hosts who tried to strike first as the skies opened and Alessia Russo attempted to poke the ball past Mackenzie Arnold from a soggy slide but could only toe it directly into the awaiting arms of the West Ham goalkeeper.
Arnold was soon able to bat away Lauren Hemp’s delivery into the box but made contact with Russo in the process, the number nine – once again earning a start in favour of Aston Villa’s Rachel Daly – deemed fit to continue after a brief pause.
It was Russo again on the attack for England, this time off Chloe Kelly’s delivery from a right corner which the Manchester United attacker tried to finish with an acrobatic effort, instead sending it just wide of the post.
England had largely kept the ball inside Australia’s half but it was the Matildas who took the lead after 32 minutes when Williamson underpowered a routine defensive header destined for England goalkeeper Mary Earps.
It proved deadly as Chelsea’s Kerr, in hot pursuit of the England skipper, charged forward to intercept and lift the ball over Manchester United shot-stopper Earps to put the Matildas ahead.
They somehow swerved danger to start the second half when Kerr latched onto Cortnee Vine’s cross and was somehow able to evade both Jess Carter and Esme Morgan, flanking the Australian, who directed a shot hard but wide of the left post from inside the area.
England struggled to get something started as the rain continued to keep conditions slippery.
James twice looked to level, her first attempt blocked by an Australia defender and her second forcing Arnold into a low save before Chloe Kelly sent an effort over the crossbar.
Wiegman, still searching for a solution to England’s attacking woes, swapped Ella Toone for Daly on the hour mark but seven minutes later, her side were on the wrong side of a two-goal deficit.
This time Kerr turned provider as she sent a cross into the area where Grant rose to meet it, her nodded effort taking a deflection off the unfortunate Williamson before finding the back of the net – though the Australian was ultimately credited with the goal, her first in international action.
England pushed to claw one back but were largely left frustrated by a determined Australia side, who celebrated the clean-sheet victory after Arnold coolly collected Stanway’s free-kick in stoppage-time.