Australia has defeated lowly ranked Kyrgyzstan 2-1 in front of a packed 18,000 strong crowd in Bishkek.
The Socceroos were expected to brush this morning’s opponents aside, however, struggled to ever gain a real stranglehold on the match, just managing to grind out a one goal win.
The minnows, aided by an energetic and extremely loud home crowd, played with exuberance and flair as they took it right up to the Asian Cup Champions.
Ange Postecoglou’s men got off to the perfect start, with a goal inside the opening minute thanks to Captain Mile Jedinak. Attacker Matthew Leckie was fouled straight after the kick and Jedinak duly stepped up and beautifully placed the ball into the corner of the net, however, he was aided by a bumpy pitch, which allowed the ball to bounce above the keeper.
The hosts then kicked into gear, producing attack after attack, as they starved Australia of the ball and nullified key attacking players. Kyrgyzstan dominated the shot count eight to three in the first half, but couldn’t find the back of the net, as Australia struggled to contain their playmakers on the wings, particularly Anton Zemlianuhin on the right.
Australia had a shout for a penalty turned down early in the second half, as a Matthew Leckie cross, hit the hand of a Kyrgyzstan defender.
Postecoglou then introduced Tommy Oar into the game in place of Nathan Burns, with immediate effect. Oar finished off a mesmerising outside edge of the foot through ball from Mark Milligan to make it 2-0 in the 78th minute.
Kyrgyzstan continued to attack, despite the two goal deficit, and were eventually able to pull one back thanks a controversial stoppage time goal.
Kyrgyzstan’s Azamat Baimatov appeared to handball the ball into the back of the net when flying for a header from a corner kick. All of the Australian players in the area at the time immediately began protesting, but the goal stood, as Qatari referee Mohammed Khamis, oblivious to what replays showed as a certain handball, waved away the protests.
Australian then held on during a frantic final few minutes to record a 2-1 win and get the road to Russia 2018 off to the perfect start.
Coach Ange Postecoglou said that it was a great test for the Socceroos in tough conditions.
“Full credit to them they gave it everything, I thought the crowd here was fantastic they gave them a real lift and they got a lot of energy from that,” he said of Kyrgyzstan after the match.
“But look it was a great experience for our players, this is what the World Cup qualifying process is all about and we’ll grow from this.”