It was far from pretty but the Socceroos stormed home to a 2-0 victory against an antagonistic UAE outfit in a crucial World Cup qualifier at the Sydney Football Stadium.
With a massive three points on the line, the green and gold made their intentions clear right from the kick off, playing at a frantic and intense pace.
The Socceroos came to Sydney on the back of four consecutive stalemates that had many worried for Australia’s hopes of qualifying for a fourth consecutive World Cup.
A nation’s nerves were settled early as Burton Albion’s Jackson Irvine headed home his first international goal inside the first ten minutes.
Despite waving off a number of early scares from the visitors, the hosts maintained a firm hand on the match in the early stages.
Australia’s inability to add to the scoreboard allowed the visitors to claw their way into the match. 2016 AFC player of the year Omar Abdulrahman lead from the front in creating a plethora of problems for the Socceroos and very nearly equalised had it not been for the goalkeeping heroics of Matt Ryan who returned to the starting line up.
The narrow lead felt all too familiar for the home side who desperately looked to put the game to bed with a second goal that looked as though it would never come after the Socceroos squandered numerous golden chances that would have been put away any other day.
It took until the 78th minute for Australia to seal the deal. James Troisi once again the provider who landed the ball perfectly onto the head of Matthew Leckie from the corner as a nation breathed a massive sigh of relief.
The contest was certainly hotly contested with tensions boiling left, right and centre. It took until the 80th minute for the first yellow card to be dished out despite both sides committing a number of bookable fouls.
The loss for the visitors ends their hopes of qualifying for Russia 2018. The UAE manifested immense determination but were just unable to make that crucial breakthrough and have thus been denied the opportunity to qualify for just their second World Cup.
Despite the valiant performance UAE coach Mahdi Ali has resigned in the press conference after the match.
Aaron Mooy’s absence did not seem to faze the Socceroos who prevailed with Jackson Irvine and Matthew Leckie rising to the occasion to secure a significant three points.
Australia meet group leaders Saudi Arabia at home in Adelaide in June whilst the UAE travel to Thailand for their next fixture.
Australia 2 (Irvine 6′ , Leckie 78′) def. 0 UAE.
It’s do or die for the Socceroos who face the UAE in a must-win World Cup Qualifier if they want to secure automatic qualification for Russia 2018. Join The Roar from 8pm (AEDT) for the live scores and commentary from Allianz Stadium.
The road to Russia just got all the more difficult for the green and gold. The most recent draw to Iraq has resulted in the Socceroos slipping down to third in the group behind Saudi Arabia and Japan.
The draw being Australia’s fourth consecutive stalemate and with only four more qualifiers left to play the Socceroos could be staring down the barrel of an arduous route to Russia.
Despite not having lost any games so far the green and gold have dropped crucial points and created a greater sense of angst back home.
Fortunately for the Socceroos three of the last four qualifiers are on home soil in a climate that will more or less suit Australia.
Australia meet the UAE after a disappointing result in Tehran against Iraq. After finding the back of the net through a Matthew Leckie header the Socceroos were unable to finish off their opponents and were unable to regain the lead after the home side equalised.
The UAE meanwhile sit only a point behind the Socceroos in fourth position which amplifies the significance of the match.
The visitors recently went down 2-0 to Japan at home and will be determined to upset the Asian Champions and qualify for the World Cup for only the second time.
The last World Cup the UAE qualified for was Italy in 1990 where they failed to make it out of the group stage.
This is not the first time these two sides have met with their last meeting being in the semi-final of the 2015 Asian Cup in Newcastle.
Goals from Trent Sainsbury and Jason Davidson guided Australia to their second Asian Cup final which they eventually went on to win.
Ange Postecoglou has hinted at a number of changes to the side that was held by Iraq last week.
Star playmaker Aaron Mooy will miss the crucial contest due to suspension, with his absence certainly testing the quality of the depth within the national side.
It will also be interesting to see whether Postecoglou will stick to the new formation experimented against Iraq.
The Socceroos were seen playing three at the back which seems to have come back into fashion in modern football.
The Socceroos will have to be weary of UAE playmaker Omar Abdulrahman who has made a name for himself, attracting the interest of European suitors.
The 25-year-old was named the 2016 AFC player of the year currently playing for Al Ain FC in UAE Arabian Gulf League.
Abdulrahman is no stranger to Australian football fans, lighting up the Asian Cup with his skills and cheeky panenka against Japan in the penalty shootout. He will certainly be one to watch.
Playing in Sydney at the Allianz Arena should favour former Western Sydney Wanderers striker Tomi Juric who played a number of derbies on that ground.
The 25-year-old has only managed the one goal in the campaign and will certainly be looked upon against the UAE to provide quality service as a centre forward.
The Socceroos must also not ignore the talents of Tim Cahill who has found the back of the net on nine occasions in Australia’s qualification campaign.
Despite being 37 Cahill is still an ominous threat in the air and could provide that ‘X-factor’ that the Socceroos have been lacking.
This is arguably the most important match of the campaign thus far where anything less than the three points being disastrous for the home side.
Prediction: Socceroos 2-0.
Will the Socceroos bounce back after four consecutive draws? Or will the UAE pull of a massive upset and provide hope for qualification? Join The Roar from 8pm (AEDT) to find out!