The Socceroos have overcome a nervy start to lay down an impressive marker for their Asian Cup campaign, winning their opening match against Kuwait 4-1 in Melbourne.
Goals to Tim Cahill, Massimo Luongo, Mile Jedinak and James Troisi cancelled out Ali Hussein Fadhel’s early strike as a raucous crowd found full voice on a rainy night at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.
Expectation circled the Socceroos before kick-off, with a good result seen as essential to get off to a positive start after a poor run of results since the 2014 World Cup.
But the opening of the match hardly went to plan for the Socceroos. Appearing more than a little nervous on such a big occasion, Kuwait took its opportunity to steal ahead from a smart set piece in the eighth minute.
As a number of Kuwaiti players peeled off to the back post, causing their Socceroos markers to follow them, Fadhel held his position at the front post and dived ahead of Cahill to nod home.
It was a cleverly created and smartly taken goal, and succeeded in rocking both the home crowd and players as the tempo dropped and Australia looked the weaker team.
In time, though, the Socceroos found their groove, making a number of confident surges into the penalty area and winning fouls in dangerous areas, only for the chances on goal to dissapate.
But if anybody was going to make the difference for Australia, it was going to be Cahill.
The veteran was the beneficiary of some outstanding work by Luongo in the 33rd minute, who skipped past a handful of defenders to get the byline and square up towards Cahill who was, of course, perfectly placed.
The finish was as unerring as expected, the New York man slamming home with his right boot to set off the trademark celebration and settle Australia’s nerves.
The Socceroos stayed on the front foot for the rest of the half, and were rewarded again just before the whistle when Luongo met Ivan Franjic’s expertly weighted cross in Cahill-esque fashion to take the lead in the 44th minute.
Any thoughts the break came at a bad time for Australia were quickly dispelled as the Socceroos started the second half as it finished the first, immediately going on the attack and closing in on a crucial third goal.
Mathew Leckie hit the bar, and a few other chances fizzled out, but when Robbie Kruse was clipped in the area in the 62nd minute and the referee awarded the penalty, Jedinak was unerring with the finish.
Kuwait came back into the game as Australia made changes from the bench, with keeper Mat Ryan called on to make one stunning save to keep the two goal buffer, but the hosts always looked likely to find another goal.
Recalled Nathan Burns hit the bar with a stunning header, Tomi Juric fired shots straight at the keeper but Troisi found a way through in the final moments, belting one inside the near post from a tight angle after Leckie’s tricky build up play in the 91st minute.
While it was far from a perfect Socceroos performance, Kuwait was left wanting at crucial times thanks to the home side’s power of will and pace on the counter, and next opponent Oman will have its hands full to stop the momentum.
Source : abc.net.au