Australia marched into the last eight of the Asian Cup with a 4-0 victory over Indonesia. Despite the emphatic scoreline it was far from one way traffic, with two late goals flattering the Socceroos.
The Socceroos led 2-0 at halftime having taken just one shot and being outplayed for long stretches by the lowest ranked third placed team to advance to the round of 16.
But Graham Arnold’s team was in cruise control in the second half before adding considerable gloss with two late goals. The fourth will be the most pleasing, with Harry Souttar scoring his 11th for the Socceroos and first of the tournament.
The Australians’ set piece has been inadequate throughout the tournament – and they mucked up five corners before Souttar received the perfect service from a Craig Goodwin freekick wide on the right in the 90th minute.
Goodwin was a late substitute and had a big impact, scoring the third after Jackson Irvine’s powerful header was well saved into Goodwin’s path.
“If you have a player who can come off the bench and impact like that,” said Arnold when asked if Goodwin had played his way back into a starting role.
“There’s plenty of people back home saying I didn’t bring an impact player. Goody is getting to that age now where that role might suit him even more – because I thought Jordie Bos was excellent. One of them can give me 60-70 minutes and that type off impact off the bench is fantastic.”
Irvine helped Australia open the scoring on 13 minutes when he sent a cross from the right that took a wicked deflection and went in for an own goal off Elkan Baggott.
That came against the run of play and Indonesia threatened several times, having five shots before Australia registered their first on target. That took 45 minutes but resulted in a goal to Martin Boyle, who was excellent throughout.
Right back Gethin Jones – one of two fresh faces from the 1-1 draw with Uzbekistan along with Bruno Fornaroli – got the assist with a wonderfully teasing cross from the right.
After the break Indonesia tired and the game was broken up with several clumsy challenges. Jones reacted badly to being fouled, kicking out at his opponent and risking a red card. Arnold brought him off soon after and his replacement Nathaniel Atkinson was full of verve.
On the other flank Bos continued to build his reputation with some incisive running that gave Asnawi Mangkualam a torrid time.
The Socceroos have won three and drawn one scoring eight goals and conceding just one. For all their issues with attacking fluidity – and boy would they love to see Bos gel better with those more advanced – their defence is rising to the occasion.
Arnold said he hadn’t spent time working on the defence – the strongest part of this campaign.
“That win will build confidence and belief,” said Arnold. “The boys have been working hard and I haven’t practised once defensively since England – it’s all been about attacking patterns, penetrating the lines and getting men in the box and when you get the boys to start beliving it, it starts working.”
They will play the winner of the round of 16 clash between South Korea and Saudi Arabia, who play on Tuesday (3am Wednesday AEDT), with the quarter-final scheduled for Friday (2.30am Saturday AEDT).