Tim Cahill was again on the scoresheet as Australia defeated Wales 2-1 in an international friendly on Wednesday night. The Everton star netted with a superb finish in the 44th minute of the Cardiff City Stadium clash to notch his 24th international goal and help his side to victory in front of a small but vocal crowd in the south of Wales.
Fortuna Dusseldorf new boy Robbie Kruse came off the bench at half-time to add to Cahill's opener with a simple finish on the hour-mark before Cardiff City's Darcy Blake struck back late in the piece, although it wasn't enough to deny Holger Osieck's men getting the upperhand in the very first meeting between the two nations.
For Wales, it was their seventh loss from their last eight outings and their fourth in five under Gary Speed whilst the Socceroos have endured just one defeat in their past ten which was the extra-time disappointment at the hands of Japan in the Asian Cup final in January.
The match was a positive showing - despite the late scare - for Australia in their last outing before 2014 World Cup qualifying kicks off against Thailand in Brisbane on September 2 as Wales look to Euro2012 qualifying against Montenegro on the same date.
Venue:Cardiff City Stadium, Wales Referee: Kristo Tohver (EST) Crowd: approx. 6,000 Yellow cards:WAL - nil AUS - Michael Zullo 55'
Neither side were able to conjure a clear-cut chance early in the contest until Luke Wilkshire's 18th-minute free-kick was cleared by the Welsh defence - apart from that it was a cagey opening.
Australia looked tentative early but managed to edge their way into proceedings as the likes of Matt McKay, Neil Kilkenny and Brett Emerton began to find the ball in midfield before Carl Valeri had a golden opportunity to put the visitors ahead in the 20th minute but he scuffed his attempt from the top of the area.
Blackburn Rovers' winger Emerton was doing his best to bring strikers Tim Cahill and Scott McDonald into the match but the Welsh defence, led by QPR signing Danny Gabbidon and Swansea City's Ashley Williams, were handling the pair comfortably.
The Socceroos had done well to quell Tottenham danger man Gareth Bale for most of the first half whilst Manchester City's Craig Bellamy was having a tough time of it out wide on the right with close checking from Michael Zullo at left-back for Australia.
The 34th minute saw Socceroos right-back Wilkshire try his luck from long range but he could not quite navigate the corner of the post which kept him out after Wales keeper Wayne Hennessey was beaten in what was clearly the best chance of the opening 40 minutes.
Bale looked like he had earned his side a penalty late in the first half when he appeared to be bundled over the area by Emerton but referee Kristo Tohver waved away the protests.
GOAL The Socceroos capitalised on the non-call by immediately going down the other end and taking the lead thanks to a neat finish from Cahill who struck a low volley from about eight yards following Wilkshire's pinpoint cross from the right on the stroke of half-time.
Australia could have been two to the good early in the second half when Ashley Williams let in Zullo's cross from the left which was pounced on by substitute Robbie Kruse whose shot from inside the area was blocked by Hennessey before Valeri's follow-up slammed into the upright as the Welsh gloveman was left stranded.
Aaron Ramsey's replacement Jack Collison provided the first real chance for the home side in the 50th minute when he went over the bar from an angle and although it didn't test Mark Schwarzer, it showed that Gary Speed's men were finally intent on attacking.
GOAL Australia then went two ahead on the hour-mark when Kruse was the recipient of some good fortune with an easy tap-in from close range but it was the lead-up work from Cahill and McDonald which led to the goal after Hennessey blocked the Middlesbrough man's initial attempt.
That second goal gave Osieck's men plenty of confidence as they began to push forward at will although Celtic's Joe Ledley tried his luck for Wales with an ambitious volley in about the 66th minute which came to no avail.
GOAL The sting went right out of the contest as time ticked on with the Australians holding onto what they thought was a comfortable lead until the home side struck back with eight minutes remaining when Bale's corner from the right was headed home by Cardiff City's own Darcy Blake after he lost his marker in the area.
Wales came hard at their opponents in the dying stages but time ran out and they had to settle for a 2-1 defeat after producing a very mediocre beginning.
WALWayne Hennessey (gk) - Chris Gunter (Matthews 61'), Danny Gabbidon (Blake 46'), Ashley Williams, Neil Taylor - David Vaughan (Allen 69'), Joe Ledley, Gareth Bale - Aaron Ramsey (Collison 46'), Craig Bellamy, Robert Earnshaw (Morison 61')
AUSMark Schwarzer (gk) - Luke Wilkshire (Kruse 46'), Lucas Neill, Matthew Spiranovic, Michael Zullo (Sarota 83') - Brett Emerton (Williams 46'), Neil Kilkenny, Carl Valeri, Matt McKay - Tim Cahill (Troisi 69'), Scott McDonald (Jedinak 90+1')