Football – Asian Cup: Defenders power Australia into final
- Updated: January 27, 2015
January 27, 2015: Hosts Australia will face Korea Republic in Saturday’s AFC Asian Cup final after maiden international goals from Trent Sainsbury and Jason Davidson early in the first half at a damp Newcastle Stadium secured the Socceroos a 2-0 semi-final win over the UAE on Tuesday.
Sainsbury, 23, handed the hosts the ideal start to their bid to secure a second consecutive appearance in the final as the centre-back headed home in the third minute. Davidson, also 23, followed suit in the 14th minute as the left-back became Australia’s 10th different scorer during the tournament.
On Saturday, Ange Postecoglou’s side will face two-time winners Korea at Stadium Australia looking to claim a maiden continental title, so after beating the UAE, the players were more focused on preparing, not celebrating, having lost 1-0 to Japan after extra-time in the 2011 final.
“The players have worked very hard to get this spot and I want them to enjoy the week. It’s going to be a great few days and it’s all part of getting to a final. You need to embrace it and look forward to it, but walking into the dressing room, there are no champagne corks being popped. They are already in recovery mode and doing the right things as they have done all tournament.” said Postecoglou, a former Socceroo himself.
“It is a massive game. We made the final four years ago, which was great for our nation. We’ve been in Asia for a while now and we haven’t won anything in the men’s game, but this gives us an opportunity at a national level to achieve something.”
Australia have now scored 12 goals in their five games, while only conceding twice. “I think we have been very good the whole tournament. There haven’t been too many periods in any games where I have felt we’ve been dominated, so for the most part we have been pretty solid,” Postecoglou said.
“The players have got real belief now and they are getting the rewards, so hopefully that means they keep progressing and challenging themselves to be better.”
The final also represents the chance for Australia to gain revenge for a 1-0 group-stage defeat to Korea, who beat Iraq 2-0 in their semi-final on Monday.
“We have to score. We didn’t score last time and we had a number of opportunities to do it, but we had a different line-up that day,” Postecoglou said. “We were quite pleased with the performance and thought we dominated that game, even though we didn’t win. There certainly wasn’t anything negative coming out of it from our perspective.”
Australia made two changes for the semi-final, recalling defender Matthew Spiranovic and midfielder Mark Milligan, while the UAE – looking to return to the final for the first time since 1996 – brought in full-back Walid Abbas and forward Mohamed Abdulrahman.
It was Sainsbury, Spiranovic’s central defensive partner, who handed Australia the ideal start as the centre-back powered a downward header from Massimo Luongo’s right-wing corner past Majed Naser. Seven minutes later, Australia breathed a sigh of relief as Ahmed Khalil hit the foot of the post from Abdulaziz Sanqour’s low cross, with goalkeeper Mat Ryan rooted to the spot.
Australia took full advantage just four minutes later as the UAE defended desperately close to their own goal. After only being able to scramble the ball out towards the edge of the penalty area, Davidson was on hand to fire a low first-time effort into the bottom corner past Naser.
UAE playmaker Omar Abdulrahman was finally having more of an impact at the start of the second half and the UAE remained in the hunt for way back into the contest as Khalil flashed an effort just wide six minutes after the restart, with Ryan at full stretch.
Postecoglou reacted by reshaping the Socceroos’ midfield just before the hour mark, introducing Matt McKay at the expense of Milligan. Australia were then able to close out the contest without any major scares, with Postecoglou having the luxury of being able to withdraw both Tim Cahill and Robbie Kruse as the UAE faded over the final minutes.
Source: WSG / AFC Asian Cup (www.afcasiancup.com); Editing by SportAsia