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Football: Asian Cup, Group A – Hosts Australia crush Kuwait in opener

Australia captain Mile Jedinak scored the hosts’ third against Kuwait from the penalty spot. Photo: AFCAsianCup.com.

Australia captain Mile Jedinak (#15) converts a penalty against Kuwait. Photo: AFCAsianCup.com.

January 9, 2015: Massimo Luongo scored his first international goal and provided an assist while Tim Cahill, captain Mile Jedinak and James Troisi were also on target as hosts Australia recovered from an early setback to kick off the AFC Asian Cup with a 4-1 win over Kuwait on Friday.

 

Hussain Fadhel’s fourth-minute header had briefly dampened spirits at a sold-out Melbourne Rectangular Stadium only for Luongo to set up Cahill to equalise with his 37th international goal 12 minutes before half-time.

 

Luongo, 22, headed home his first for the Socceroos at the end of the first half, while a 62nd-minute penalty from Jedinak and a late strike from Troisi secured all three points for the 2011 finalists in the Group A opener.

 

Looking to build on reaching the final of the last edition in Qatar, Australia made a bright start on a chilly evening, but the home side were stunned after just eight minutes as Fadhel stooped at the near post to direct a brilliant diving header from Aziz Mashaan’s right-wing corner low past goalkeeper Mat Ryan. Kuwait’s defence continued to keep Australia at bay as the half progressed, with goalkeeper Hameed Youssef largely untested.

 

However, 12 minutes before half-time, Luongo evaded the attentions of two Kuwait defenders on the right side of the penalty area after collecting Ivan Franjic’s throw-in before the Swindon Town midfielder played the ball across the edge of the six-yard box for an unmarked Cahill to fire high past a helpless Youssef. Cahill has now scored in three Asian Cups, along with three World Cups.

 

Youssef was beaten again just over a minute before half-time as Luongo superbly directed a towering header from Franjic’s equally impressive right-wing cross high into the net over the exposed Kuwait goalkeeper.

 

With the second half beginning in light drizzle, Australia’s dominance in possession continued and only a smart save from Youssef denied Cahill in the 58th minute before Mathew Leckie rattled the crossbar less than two minutes later with the Kuwait goalkeeper beaten.

 

Australia finally doubled their advantage two minutes after the hour mark as captain Jedinak confidently sent Youssef the wrong way from the penalty spot after Sultan Al Enzi had upended Robbie Kruse just inside the area.

 

Kuwait came close to setting up a tense finish as only a fingertip save from Ryan turned Fahad Al Ebrahim’s superb 71st-minute effort onto the crossbar, before Australia substitute Nathan Burns followed suit with an acrobatic glancing header at the other end. But it was Australia who looked the more likely to add to their lead and Troisi’s close-range finish in stoppage time sealed an ultimately impressive victory for the home side.

 

Source: Andrew Mullen / AFC Asian Cup (www.afcasiancup.com); Editing by SportAsia

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