By Colm Boohig
The Socceroos delighted the home faithful by defeating China 2-0 at the Suncorp Stadium and progressing through to the semi-final of this year’s Asian Cup. Tim Cahill was the match winner with two magical second half moments, the first of which is a serious contender for goal of the tournament. A meeting with Japan or the United Arab Emirates now awaits, with a repeat of the 2011 final on the cards should the Japanese win.
The match started tamely and for the first 25 minutes China was the better side, controlling the pace and tempo against a nervous looking Australian team. Mark Bresciano earned his first start of the campaign, while key men Jedinak, Cahill and Kruse all returned. However, the Chinese initially had the better of it with Wu Lei, in particular, causing the hosts serious problems on the break.
It took 26 minutes for the home side to create an opening, as Jedinak’s header from Bresciano’s cross hit the side-netting. However, this proved to be a confidence booster as first, Leckie’s drilled effort forced a fine stop from China’s ‘keeper Wang Dalei, before Sainsbury’s header from close range went over. Australia had the momentum as the sides went in at half-time and this proved to the case in the second 45.
Just four minutes into the half, the Socceroos leading all-time scorer produced yet another inspirational moment when his stunning overhead kick from six yards found the far post to put Australia ahead. Cahill and Leckie then combined to set-up Bresciano, who missed a great opportunity to double the lead. Soon after, Dalei was keeping out efforts from Leckie and, again, Cahill, but by now the advantage was very much with the home side.
It was no surprise then when, on 65 minutes, the man of moment did what he does best. From eight yards out, Cahill leaped into the air and found the far corner with a superbly directed header.
China responded well as Jiang Zhi Pang called Matt Ryan into action, before Zheng Zhi shot just wide on 70 minutes. Wu Yei then headed over from a corner before Dalei continued his terrific performance by saving two separate efforts from substitute Mark Milligan in the dying stages.
In the end Australia ran out relatively comfortable winners as their attention now turns to Newcastle, where the semi-final will take place next Tuesday, January 27th.
After the match, Ange Postecoglou could not contain his delight with his players’ performances, as well as giving a special mention for the man of the match.
“I’m super proud of the players. It was a tough night. We knew it would be tough but I knew we’d wear them down eventually”, said the coach.
“In that penalty box he’s (Tim Cahill) world-class”.
Elsewhere, in the first quarter-final, South Korea needed extra-time to overcome a resilient Uzbekistan side 2-0 – Son Heung-min with both goals. South Korea will face the winners of Iran vs Iraq in the other semi-final next Monday in Sydney.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons