Sport Football Socceroos dominant but held to 0-0 draw

Socceroos dominant but held to 0-0 draw

Socceroos Honduras
The Socceroos now need to win in Sydney on Wedesday to book a spot at the 2018 World Cup. Photo: AAP
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The Socceroos have sweated their way to ascendancy in their World Cup qualifying play-off but leave Honduras without a priceless away goal that their domination deserved.

In front of an exuberant sold-out crowd at the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano on Saturday (AEDT), Australia earned a 0-0 draw to position them smartly for the home leg in Sydney.

However Ange Postecoglou’s side now needs to win on Wednesday to book a place at the 2018 tournament in Russia.

It might have been an easier equation if the Socceroos had only converted at least one of several golden chances.

On a pitch more resembling a cow paddock, Australia came to play.

Postecoglou wasn’t lying when he said he’d take his all-out attacking game to San Pedro Sula, committing players forward.

A forward-focussed midfield monstered possession and allowed Jackson Irvine and Aaron Mooy to show their wares.

Returning skipper Mile Jedinak was often the sole midfielder assisting the back three.

They were caught unaware on four minutes, when Trent Sainsbury came from the clouds to deny Antony Lozano with a sliding tackle as he prepared to take a one-on-one chance.

It would be Honduras’ best chance of the game.

In hostile conditions and a muggy atmosphere, the inexperienced Socceroos played smartly and with spark.

Massimo Luongo danced through the box and forced Denis Escobar into a fine save on 11 minutes.

Then on 20 minutes, controversy.

A penalty awarded to Australia when Escobar clattered Bailey Wright saw furious Honduran players surround the assistant referee.

Replays showed the defender to be onside but Argentinian referee Nestor Pitana overturned the decision after consulting with his linesman.

Nevertheless, the Socceroos headed into the break on top of their hosts, with Tom Juric missing the chance of the first half, running past the faltering Johnny Palacios with a neat flick but striking wide.

At half-time, a dozen officials tended to enormous divots in the boggy pitch, criticised before the match by Postecoglou.

Opportunities continued to come.

Juric headed straight at Escobar before Risdon wriggled free only to send his cut-back sailing past two waiting attackers at the back post.

These were agonising chances that afforded the Central Americans a glimmer.

Australia stood tall to deny them twice in the last 10 minutes, with Mat Ryan saving Carlos Costly’s powerful strike before Juric denied a free kick at the front post.