Australia have scored a very late goal to record a 2-1 win over New Zealand in front of 55,659 fans at a wet MCG.
In their World Cup send off match, the Socceroos started slowly with six of their regular first eleven missing before clawing their way back thanks to a second-half Dario Vidosic goal which cancelled out Chris Killen’s first half effort.
Brett Holman then chimed in with a stoppage time goal that gave the Australians a win in Pim Verbeek’s final match in charge of the Socceroos on home soil.
World Cup send off match
Australia: 2 (Dario Vidosic 57’, Brett Holman 90+4’)
New Zealand: 1 (Chris Killen 16’)
Venue: Melbourne Cricket Ground – Melbourne, Australia
Yellow cards: AUS - Mark Milligan 22’, Vince Grella 28’, Tim Cahill 31’, Tom Oar 87’
NZL - Andrew Boyens 66’
The earlier evening rain had cleared by the time kick-off came around as the fans piled in to the MCG just before the first whistle.
With Josh Kennedy out, Scott McDonald started up front by himself but had support from Tim Cahill and Dario Vidosic who were just in behind him and it was Cahill who had the first real chance of the match in the 9th minute when he controlled the ball with his chest on the edge of the area but the New Zealand defence were sweating on the Everton man and he his shot on the turn was forced wide.
Two minutes later it was the All Whites’ turn to come close when Leo Bertos played an aerial ball to Rory Fallon whose header found Tim Brown but the Wellington Phoenix midfielder’s left-footed half-volley rolled past the upright and away to safety from a Socceroos perspective.
GOAL: Just after the 15-minute mark, New Zealand hit the front through Chris Killen who was at the back post following a long ball by Simon Elliott which was flicked on by Shane Smeltz. The Middlesbrough striker finished neatly despite being under duress from Mark Milligan and debuting goalkeeper Adam Federici.
The small contingent of All Whites fans were jubilant as a hush came over the rest of the stadium as the visitors enjoyed an unlikely lead.
Killen almost made it two in the 23rd minute when he tried a speculative left-foot volley on the turn from close range but unfortunately for him, the ball whistled into the post after leaving Federici flat-footed.
Just prior to the half-hour mark, Vince Grella was lucky not to be sent off when he challenged Leo Bertos on the touchline but referee Ricardo Salazar felt it was worth a yellow card and not long after, Aussie golden boy Tim Cahill also escaped the wrath of the US official with a studs up tackle again on Bertos but it was only a caution he received. It did however put an end to the Wellington Phoenix winger’s night and he was replaced by Winston Reid.
There were plenty of nervous moments for the Australians as New Zealand look the more settled of the two teams and created more chances. One of the Socceroos’ best chances did come with about eight minutes remaining in the half when Mark Bresciano played a free-kick to David Carney who chipped a ball to the back post to an unmarked McDonald whose initial side footed effort was knocked back into his path by keeper Mark Paston but his follow up was way over the crossbar which was a huge let off for the Kiwis.
The rest of the 45 minutes slightly petered out as the All Whites were happy to keep their goal advantage whilst the Australians appeared to be struggling.
Pim Verbeek called the changes at half-time for the home side, replacing five starters including Cahill, Federici and Grella whilst Ricki Herbert gave vice-captain Tim Brown a rest and brought on Michael McGlinchey.
Australia came agonisingly close in the 54th minute when Vidosic made a sizzling run forward before offloading for substitute Mile Jedinak whose shot was blocked but then followed up my Mark Milligan but his deflected effort went wide of the mark although it had All Whites keeper Paston beaten.
GOAL: Moments later, the Socceroos got on level terms when Jason Culina’s deflected pass found Vidosic in the box and the Nuremberg man turned and finished neatly to make it 1-1.
The Socceroos had begun to increase their urgency and were looking much more dangerous going forward which was sparked by both Culina and Vidosic whilst Craig Moore’s replacement, Michael Beauchamp, was controlling defence.
The Kiwis were on the back foot and just trying to weather the storm as Herbert pulled a few more changes and it worked immediately as Tommy Smith played a lovely ball to an oncoming Rory Fallon but his point blank header was brilliantly saved by Jones who just staked his claim to be Mark Schwarzer’s deputy in South Africa.
Both sides seemed happy to concentrate on defence as the minutes evaporated and the contest died out before some Australian magic which was finished by Brett Holman. David Carney played the ball to Culina who teed it up for Carl Valeri and the midfielder chipped a magical ball in the path of Holman who finished coolly seconds before the final whistle.
Adam Federici (gk) (Jones 46’), Lucas Neill (c), Craig Moore (Beauchamp 46’), Tim Cahill (Valeri 46’), Jason Culina, Dario Vidosic (Oar 78’), Vince Grella (Jedinak 46’), Scott McDonald (Rukavytsya 71’), Mark Milligan, David Carney, Mark Bresciano (Holman 46’)
Subs - Brad Jones (gk) (46’), Eugene Galekovic (gk), Michael Beauchamp (46’), Mile Jedinak (46’), James Holland, Nikita Rukavytsya (71’), Brett Holman (46’), Shane Lowry, Carl Valeri (46’), Nick Carle, Tom Oar (78’)
Mark Paston (gk), Ben Sigmund, Tony Lochhead (Smith 59’), Ivan Vicelich (Boyens 51’), Ryan Nelsen (c), Simon Elliott, Tim Brown (McGlinchey 46’), Shane Smeltz (Brockie 66’), Chris Killen (Wood 66’), Leo Bertos (Reid 33’), Rory Fallon
Subs - Glen Moss (gk), James Bannatyne (gk), Winston Reid (33’), Andy Barron, Michael McGlinchey (46’), Aaron Clapham, David Mulligan, Andrew Boyens (51’), Chris Wood (66’), Jeremy Christie, Jeremy Brockie (66’), Tommy Smith (59’)