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Australia's Asian Cup defence comes to a bitter end

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Roar Guru
25th January, 2019
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The Socceroos have been sensationally knocked out of the 2019 Asian Cup after going down bitterly 1-0 to the UAE in Al-Ain.

A terrible back-pass from Milos Degenek in the second half set up Ali Makbkhout for the only goal of the match.

Australia pushed hard for an equalizer but could not conjure the goal they craved.

History unfortunately struck again for Graham Arnold, who was in charge in 2007 when the Socceroos also crashed out of the Asian Cup at the quarter-final stage.

The defending champions missed the skill and attacking nous of Tom Rogic, who was unavailable through suspension.

To cope with the loss of Rogic, Arnold moved to a 4-4-2 formation, starting Jamie Maclaren up front with Apostolos Giannou.

The gamble paid off with the Socceroos starting strongly and moving the ball with purpose.

Robbie Kruse replaced Awer Mabil on the right flank, and the much-maligned veteran winger was effective and engaging.

The first half was a frenetic affair with both teams enjoying chances. The best came to the hosts in the 20th minute when Mat Ryan pulled off a terrific save to keep the score level, after Mark Milligan coughed up the ball in midfield.

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The Socceroos had several half-chances, especially from corners, but were unable to keep their headers down.

In the second half Australia looked to have taken the lead in the 63rd minute, when sub Matthew Leckie brilliantly set up Giannou, who put the ball in the back of the net.

But Leckie was correctly ruled offside and the goal was disallowed.

Soon after came Degenek’s error which gifted the UAE the lead. The defender claimed he was fouled as he gave the ball away, but his claims were waived away by the VAR.

Arnold emptied the rest of his bench but to no avail. The Socceroos had 16 shots to just 5 from the UAE, but only three of those were on target.

The match ended in somewhat farcical scenes, with six additional minutes played along with the four minutes of injury time originally announced, as several UAE players wasted time.

While one was legitimately injured after a bad head knock, several others hit the turf to run out the clock.