The Socceroos have kept Australia’s World Cup dream alive by claiming victory over the United Arab Emirates in their Asian play-off in Qatar.
Second-half goals to Jackson Irvine and rising star Ajdin Hrustic either side of Caio Canedo’s goal for the UAE were enough to secure Australia a crucial win at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Wednesday morning.
The Socceroos won 2-1.
The victory means Australia moves on to face Peru in an inter-continental play-off in Doha on June 14 (starting 4am AEST). The winner of that game will advance to November’s World Cup finals.
Rising star’s winning moves
Hrustic’s 84th minute strike, which took a heavy deflection on its way into the net, came after Jackson Irvine had opened the scoring for the Socceroos in the 53rd minute of the match.
“I hit it quite good,” Hrustic said after the match.
“I think if it didn’t hit the UAE player it would’ve still gone in.
“Luck was on our side but we deserved it, to be honest.”
Irvine’s strike was almost immediately cancelled out by Caio Canedo’s equaliser for the UAE just four minutes later. But Graham Arnold’s men rallied to find the winner.
“I was probably 50 per cent happy with our team,” Arnold said.
“There’s a lot of improvement still.
“If I went into the dressing room and asked all the players, if they’ve got some percentage of improvement in them, I think all of them would say yes.
“So that’s what we need. We need them all to play a better game against Peru.”
Despite Arnold’s pre-game insistence his team needed to bring out their nasty side, Australia were oddly passive in the opening half.
The Socceroos failed to muster a shot on target in a cagey display as lively winger Harib Abdalla tormented right-back Nathaniel Atkinson.
Abdalla twice ran free down the left in the opening half only to be denied both times by Socceroos goalkeeper Maty Ryan.
That pattern repeated early in the second half when Abdalla bolted free past Bailey Wright and Atkinson, only to again be thwarted by Ryan.
Irvine opened the scoring in the 53rd minute when Martin Boyle found space inside the box and crossed for the midfielder to sweep home from point-blank range.
Australia’s lead didn’t last long, however, with Canedo lashing home from the edge of the six-yard area after the Socceroos failed to deal with an Abdalla cross just four minutes later.
Craig Goodwin had an opportunity to restore Australia’s lead in the 60th minute after he was found unmarked at the back post – but then the Adelaide United winger blazed his effort over the bar.
Substitute Jamie Maclaren also forced UAE goalkeeper Khalid Eisa into a sharp one-handed save in the 80th minute as Australia pressed for a late winner.
That winner came when Hrustic’s 84th-minute shot from the edge of the box took a heavy deflection off Ali Salmeen to leave Eisa stranded.