Clinical Australia notch second straight win
The Qantas Under 23’s remain on track to secure a berth at the 2008 Olympic Games after convincingly defeating Group A rivals Lebanon 3-0 at Bluetongue Stadium tonight.
The Qantas Under 23-s remain on track to secure a berth at the 2008 Olympic Games after convincingly defeating Group A rivals Lebanon 3-0 at Bluetongue Stadium tonight.
Strikes from Nick Ward and Mark Bridge sent Australia to the break with a two goal advantage, before substitute David Williams added a third in second half stoppage time to make sure of a thoroughly deserved victory for Graham Arnold-s charges.
Beginning the match with nine of the eleven players that were so impressive against DPR Korea four days earlier, Australia were simply an echelon above their stubborn, but outclassed opponents.
English based defender Trent McClenahan replaced the suspended Adrian Leijer in central defence, while up front, the robust presence of Adelaide United-s Bruce Djite was preferred in place of Brondby striker Williams, whose diminutive style was most fitting against DPR Korea last Saturday.
Although spirited in their play, Lebanon was ultimately no match for an Australian outfit that, at times, showcased football of the highest quality.
"The first 35 minutes was champagne football, we played absolutely fantastic," said Qantas Under 23-s coach Arnold after the match.
"I tried to put some pressure on the players to repeat their first half performance in the second half, but that-s the way football is.
"At the end of the day, it-s three points that we needed, before we came into camp last week we said to the boys that we had two home games, from which we need to get six points.
"After those two games we-ve got six points, four goals and no goals conceded, so I can-t complain too much."
Australia was, in a word, irresistible in the first half.
Spearheaded by an affluent midfield featuring Billy Celeski, Stuart Musialik, Kristian Sarkies and goal scorer Ward, Arnold-s charges were a class above their West Asian opponents and certainly unfortunate to not lead by more than two goals at the break.
Ward-s opener was the highlight of the half - the Queens Park Rangers playmaker smashing home a Nikolai Topor-Stanley cross with some style.
Midway through the half, Bridge doubled Australia-s advantage after some neat passing movements on the edge of the penalty area with strike partner Djite.
Djite himself could have, and perhaps should have scored on several occasions throughout the match, such was his presence in Australia-s final third.
At the other end, captain Mark Milligan was once again a standout.
Alongside newcomer McClenahan, Milligan marshalled his backline with the aplomb Australian football fans have come to expect in recent times - rarely allowing Lebanon-s pint sized front line a chance at Danny Vukovic-s goal.
Ruben Zadkovich and Topor-Stanley again provided impetus from their respective fullback positions, while from the bench, David Micevski and Ersun Gulum showed some nice touches that complemented Williams- noteworthy late contribution.
As with last Saturday, this was a performance of genuine quality from Australia, who after back-to-back wins and four successive clean sheets, are ideally positioned to continue Australia-s proud Olympic Games record in Beijing.
"Iraq are in pole position - our challenge is to win our three home games," said Arnold of Australia-s chances of qualification.
"I-m actually happy that we didn-t have it all our own way in the second half, because now the boys know when we go to Lebanon for the next game, that Lebanon can play football."
The Qantas Under 23-s journey towards the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing continues on Wednesday, 17 October, when they travel to Beirut to again take on Lebanon. Kick off is at 6pm local time.
The Qantas Under 23-s last remaining home match of this final qualification stage is on Saturday, 17 November, when they host Iraq at Bluetongue Stadium. Kick off is at 7pm.
Tickets are now on sale from Ticketek outlets, from the Ticketek website - www.ticketek.com.au, or via phone on 132 849.
Australia 3 (Nick Ward 6-, Mark Bridge 24-, David Williams 90-+3) Lebanon 0
Australian line-up: 1. Danny Vukovic (gk), 2. Ruben Zadkovich, 4. Mark Milligan, 6. Stuart Musialik (39. David Micevski 80-), 7. Kristian Sarkies (27. Ersan Gulum 85-), 9. Mark Bridge, 11. Bruce Djite (19. David Williams 74-), 13. Trent McClenahan, 15. Nick Ward, 20. Nikolai Topor-Stanley, 22. Billy Celeski Unused Subs: 16. Leigh Broxham, 17. Aaron Downes, 18. Tando Velaphi (gk), 42. Nigel Boogaard
Yellow Cards None Red Cards None
Referee: Kadyrbek Chynybekov (Kyrgyzstan)