Socceroos into Asian cup final
28 January 2015
FOOTBALL: A novice defensive duo scored goals to punch Australia's ticket to the Asian Cup final with a 2-0 victory against United Arab Emirates.
Unlikely sources Trent Sainsbury and Jason Davidson logged their first international goals in Tuesday night's comprehensive semi-final triumph in Newcastle.
The duo scored inside 14 dreamy minutes for the Socceroos, who secured a slot in Saturday night's final against South Korea in Sydney.
Sainsbury, in his ninth international, and Davidson, in his 15th, stunned the Emirates and extended the Socceroos' remarkable spread of scorers in the cup.
Ten Australians have netted the nation's 12 goals with Tim Cahill (three) the only multiple scorer.
Sainsbury's goal came in just two minutes 35 seconds, as many of the sell-out 21,079 Newcastle crowd were settling into their seats.
The centre-back's score came from a Massimo Luongo corner - and the magnetism of Cahill.
Cahill's presence attracted three UAE defenders to him, and Sainsbury trailed in behind, unattended, and placed a neat header to the right of the `keeper.
Just 11 minutes later, Davidson thundered a left-footer into the net and the Socceroos were headed for the final.
After a Mathew Leckie shot was blocked, the ball spilt to a scramble won by Luongo with a deft touch into the path of Davidson.
With time and space, the left-back cracked a low shot which beat a despairing dive from Emirates goalkeeper Majed Naser.
The perfect start came as the Socceroos dominated the Emirates, shifting the visitors around at will on a pitch softened by heavy rain throughout the day.
The UAE, despite eye-catching cameos from their star playmaker Omar Abdulrahman, rarely threatened against the cohesive Socceroos who turned in a complete performance - resolute defence blended with attacking menace, all underpinned by tireless work ethic.
The Emirates' best chance came from a speculative 25-metre blast from Ahmed Khalil in the 51st minute which had Australian keeper Mat Ryan beat, but sailed just wide.
The UAE will now remain in Newcastle for a play-off for third spot in the cup against Iraq on Friday.
And the buoyant Socceroos head for Sydney and their second consecutive cup final, after losing 0-1 to Japan four years ago.
They will confront the Koreans, who defeated the Socceroos 1-0 in a group match in Brisbane 10 days ago - though the Australians started their attacking trumpcards Cahill, Leckie and Robbie Kruse in the bench in that encounter.
Australian coach Ange Postecoglou hailed a complete performance from his players.
"There haven't been too many periods in any game where I felt like we have been dominated," he said.
"It's going to be a great few days and it's all part of getting to a final, you need to embrace it.
"But there's no champagne corks being popped, they're already in recovery mode ... the players are absolute professionals."
United Arab Emirates coach Mahdi Ali said his players, who had a day less rest entering for the match than the Socceroos, appeared fatigued.
"We played three strong matches - Iran, Japan, then Australia," he said.
"All three games were tough for us, many players were tired today. We didn't have enough power to come back into the game.
"The Australian team were defending very well and well organised ... in the past one year they have improved a lot."