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WC Qualification Asia

  • February 29, 2012
  • • 4:30 AM
  • • AAMI Park, Melbourne
  • Referee: Dong-Jin Kim
  • • Attendance: 24240
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Australia 4-2 Saudi Arabia: Rijkaard's men knocked out in third round of World Cup qualifying

The Green Falcons led twice, but a flurry of second-half goals helped the Socceroos christen AAMI Park with a victory - leaving their opponents' dream in tatters

Three goals in three second-half minutes saw the Socceroos surge to a memorable 4-2 win over Saudi Arabia at Melbourne's AAMI Park, sending them into the final stage of World Cup qualification on a high, eliminating the Green Falcons in the process.

Australia looked set for their first defeat on home soil in almost three years when Saudi Arabia led 2-1 with just 17 minutes left.

But just as the visitors were dreaming of keeping their hopes of qualification for Brazil 2014 alive, Harry Kewell, Alex Brosque and Brett Emerton each netted to secure the three points in emphatic fashion.

The result means Oman, who defeated Thailand 1-0 in Muscat, join the already qualified Socceroos in the final 10 of AFC qualification, with the draw to be held on March 9.

It was an eventful opening five minutes, with Saudi Arabia having an appeal for handball against Jade North in the box turned down, before Kewell had the ball in the net from a Emerton header, only to be denied by the assistant referee's flag.

Both sides backed off after the frenetic start, but Saudi Arabia did fire a warning shot when an effort from Ahmed Al Fraidi went over the bar after 12 minutes.

Australia did not heed the threat and, on 19 minutes, the visitors took a shock lead. Al Dawsari rounded Mark Milligan and Mark Bresciano in the midfield and fired a low 25-yard effort, which Mark Schwarzer had no hope of saving.

The Socceroos looked to respond. Bresciano and Kewell tested Abdullah Ali from long range, with the latter forcing a strong save before Brosque's effort was headed away and a deflection denied Kewell from a free-kick.

A clever pass from Bresciano eventually broke the Saudi resistance on 43 minutes. He put Brosque through and the J-League striker beat Osama Hawsawi to the ball and finished well to equalise.

However, Australia could not hold on until the break, with Hassan Mouath given too much space down the right. Lucas Neill implored someone to mark Nasser Al Shamrani, but his calls went unheeded and he strolled onto the ball and rifled home on the stroke of half-time.

Australia dominated the first 15 minutes after the break, with Kewell again just missing on two occasions and James Troisi hitting his effort straight at the goalkeeper.

A moment of possible controversy came on 63 minutes when Lucas Neill scored what looked to be his first international goal in his 80th appearance. From what looked a clear onside position, he lobbed a header from a Spiranovic cross, but was ruled out by the eager linesman.

Kewell was pushed to the left with Archie Thompson coming on for Troisi, but continued his attack on the goal, with a header going just over on 70 minutes, before Al Shamroni almost poked home Mouath's right-wing cross to make it 3-1.

The Melbourne Victory man finally got his reward on 73 minutes, when Thompson put through Brosque, who cut back well for Kewell to score his 17th international goal.

Two minutes later, Spiranovic put Emerton clear down the left and his cross was well met at the near post by Brosque for a quality goal.

Then, with hardly time to draw breath, Bresciano pierced the Saudi defence again and an intended clearance from Kamil Al Mousa ricocheted off Emerton and into the net.

That surge killed off the contest and Australia coasted through to the next stage with 15 from a possible 18 points, while Saudi Arabia and their coach, Frank Rijkaard, must deal with the agony of elimination.

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