Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou hailed Mat Ryan’s “terrific save” after the goalkeeper earned Australia a point in a 1-1 draw against Japan in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Ryan leapt to his right and stunningly kept out Yu Kobayashi’s 74th-minute header to ensure Australia were not defeated in the World Cup qualifier.
Watch the save below
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) October 11, 2016
In front of 48,360 fans at Etihad Stadium, Japan, which controlled the first half, took a fifth-minute lead thanks to Genki Haraguchi’s smart finish.
But the Socceroos levelled in the 52nd minute through a Mile Jedinak penalty and held on for a draw thanks to Ryan.
When quizzed by The New Daily about the goalkeeper’s performance, Postecoglou said: “It was a fantastic save.
“He hasn’t played a lot [for Spanish club Valencia] recently but in camp he has been very good for us.
“I thought he performed very well tonight.
“He was probably disappointed with the goal he conceded … it was a hard game for him because he wasn’t involved that much but that’s what you want from your keeper.”
Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic added in his post-match press conference: “The opponent goalkeeper had two great saves. I feel we deserved two more points in this game.”
Postecoglou was happy with Ryan but could not hide his disappointment at Australia’s first-half performance, insisting the team “wasted 45 minutes of the game”.
“We were very poor in the first half. We conceded a really soft goal,” he added.
“We weren’t asking a lot of questions of them defensively.
“We just didn’t show enough intent in the first 45 minutes to break them down.
“There was a reaction in the second half and that was pleasing.
“[But] conceding the goal early set us on the back foot.”
The result means Australia have eight points from four matches in the third phase of World Cup qualification through Asia – one more than Japan.
The Socceroos started sluggishly and were quickly behind as Trent Sainsbury gave the ball away cheaply to Keisuke Honda.
Honda played in the excellent Haraguchi down the left and the 25-year-old made no mistake, slotting past Ryan to delight the noisy Japanese fans.
The goal set the tone for a frustrating first half in which the Socceroos regularly conceded possession and lacked cutting edge in the attacking third.
A wayward Tomi Juric header and a tame Jedinak free-kick were as close as Australia came to a first-half leveller, while at the other end, Honda should have done better than shooting straight at Ryan after another eye-catching Haraguchi run.
Australia were level just seven minutes into the second half after Juric was barged over in the penalty area by Haraguchi.
Jedinak took the resultant spot-kick and converted, slotting straight down the middle from 12 yards.
The hosts thought they had another penalty in the 57th minute, when Juric went down under close attention from Gotoku Sakai, but referee Nawaf Shukralla was not as convinced.
Buoyed by their goal, the Socceroos ramped up the pressure as Matthew Spiranovic had a header saved, while Tom Rogic and Jedinak missed the target.
They really should have conceded again, though, only for Ryan to superbly deny Kobayashi with a piece of individual brilliance.
Japan substitute Asano Takuma came close to connecting with a late cross that flew across the face of goal, while Australia also had a half-chance in the dying stages, which Spiranovic headed over.
But both nations had to settle for a point – a result that was kinder to Australia than it was Japan.
Australia have one World Cup qualifier remaining in 2016, a November 15 clash in Thailand.