Australia draw 1-1 with Japan
A 10-man Socceroos have held on for a brave 1-1 draw in their World Cup qualifier against a highly fancied Japan in Brisbane on Tuesday night.
Six years to the day after their famous 3-1 World Cup win over the Blue Samurai, Australia again showed plenty of spirit to reel in an in-form Japan despite Mark Milligan receiving a second yellow card in the 55th minute.
Milligan wasn’t the only one seeing red – Socceroos coach Holger Osieck looked ropeable with officials after watching his charge receive his marching orders for a diving challenge on Atsuto Uchida.
Still seething over Milligan’s dismissal, Osieck’s mood only got worse in the 65th when dangerman Keisuke Honda found an unmarked Yuzo Kurihara in the goal square and Japan drew first blood.
But a 69th penalty turned the game on its head.
Referee Khalil Al Ghamdi pointed to the spot after Atsuto Uchida brought striker Alex Brosque down and Luke Wilkshire did the rest, bringing the 40,189-strong crowd to its feet.
Suncorp Stadium threatened to erupt again in the 77th minute but defender Sasa Ognenovski’s shot hit the cross bar.
There was more drama when Kurihara received a second yellow card in the 89th minute but Wilkshire’s long range penalty shot was sensationally saved by keeper Eiji Kawashima.
Tim Cahill, who appeared to be on the outer with Osieck after not taking the field in six of their last seven internationals was injected into the starting side and proceeded to terrorise Japan in the first half.
Cahill seemed to be everywhere and was again present during Australia’s best first half scoring chance in the 19th minute.
His header was crossed by captain Lucas Neill but somehow Kurihara defied Alex Brosque and cleared the ball off the line while lying on his back.
Frustration caused by Cahill bubbled over when Kurihara received a yellow card for manhandling the ever present Australian trump card moments later.
Japan tried to rally and finish the half strongly but made a mess of their best scoring chances – Yuto Nagatomo’s 33rd minute cross failed to find a wide open Ryoichi Maeda and Atsuto Uchida’s strike 10 minutes later went well wide.
Australia received a major blow when veteran midfielder Mark Bresciano lasted just 13 minutes before being subbed off with what appeared to be a groin strain.
Bresciano, 32, had been a standout in Australia’s 0-0 draw with Oman last weekend and was again expected to control the game tempo against a confident Japan.
It was a second straight draw for Australia in the final qualifying stage following a draining 0-0 result at a stifling hot Oman last weekend, ending a run of two straight runaway wins by Group B leaders Japan.
A top two finish in the group will guarantee a Brazil 2014 berth.
An extremely proud Osieck described Australia’s spirited display as superb.
“It was a heroic performance after playing in extremely difficult conditions in Oman and then with the travel back to Australia,” the German coach said.
“What they showed today with one man down is hard to describe.
“The spirit is unique, what they displayed today.
“It was very, very unfortunate that we lost (Bresciano) early because he provides that element of creativity that later on we were missing.”
Osieck shielded Milligan from any blame for his red-card, slamming referee Ghamdi for the defensive midfielder’s second yellow.
“That was a very, very dubious call from the referee,” he said. “It was a cross inside and he clearly went to the ball and didn’t even touch (Uchida).
“How could he give a red card for that? It was beyond my comprehension.”© AAP 2013
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