Saturday, 20 July 2013 10:06 PM
Eugene Galekovic produced an extraordinary display of goalkeeping prowess in Australia’s opening match at the EAFF East Asian Cup, singlehandedly earning the Socceroos an improbable 0-0 draw against hosts Korea Republic.
Led by newly installed coach Hong Myung-Bo – a hero of the 2002 World Cup as a player – the home side flew out of the traps at the Seoul World Cup Stadium.
Laying siege to Australia’s goal for all of the first half and much of the second, Korea Republic, cheered on by 31,000 passionate fans, did everything in their power to find the back of the net, but could not force a way past the inspired Galekovic.
Despite seeing his team earn a point, Australia coach Holger Osieck, who handed debuts to Mitchell Duke and Erik Paartalu, the latter off the bench, will take little encouragement from a performance in which the Socceroos struggled to mount a single meaningful attack.
The German will surely demand an improvement in his team’s second match against Japan on Thursday.
Hong meanwhile will be left to wonder how his impressive young charges, many of whom played under him for South Korea’s Under-23 team at the 2012 London Olympics, could not find a way past their stubborn visitors.
Having dominated the early stages, South Korea came inches away from opening the scoring in the 15th minute, when Galekovic was forced into a low save to deny Yun Illok.
Twice more in the next five minutes the hosts went close, as the Adelaide United custodian kept out Lee Seung-Ki and Yun again, the former from a long-range effort which appeared destined for the top left corner of the Socceroos’ net.
Next it was the turn of centre-back Kim Young-Gwon to threaten, forcing Galekovic into a flying save from a howitzer of a free-kick in the 29th minute.
As the minutes ticked away, the chances kept coming, but only at one end. On 37 minutes Kim Dong Sub sent a glancing header just wide of the post, and followed it up with another attempt soon afterwards, Galekovic this time fortunate not to spill the ball at his feet.
Fittingly, the last word of the first half went to Korea Republic, as the impressive Yun fired a cutback straight at the visitors’ inspired goalkeeper from just outside the area.
All Australia could muster was one driving run from Ryan McGowan, who played in Archie Thompson, but the Melbourne Victory man’s cutback went begging.
McGowan himself had the Socceroos’ only other chance of the half, sending a Dario Vidosic free-kick wide of goal.
Australia were afforded something of a breather early in the second half, as South Korea were restricted to half-chances from Go Yohan and substitute Yeom Kihun.
The oppressive humidity had a role to play as the tempo dropped on both sides, but the home side did not give up in their attempts.
Lee had arguably one of the best chances of the game in the 70th minute, denied only by the faintest of touches from the boot of Jade North.
Six minutes later they went even closer, Yeom striking the post with Galekovic finally beaten, indicating it was not to be South Korea’s night.
They must now dust themselves off and prepare for a clash with China at Hwaseong Stadium on Wednesday.
And it could be back to the drawing board for Osieck, who knows his team will not survive such a barrage unscathed again in the tournament.