Munro strike nets Qantas Young Socceroos opening win
The Socceroos kicked off their 2009 AFC U-19 Championship with a 1-0 win over Asean rivals Thailand in Khobar, Saudi Arabia overnight.
Courtesy of Asian Football Confrderation - The Qantas Young Socceroos kicked off their 2009 AFC U-19 Championship with a 1-0 win over Asean rivals Thailand in Khobar, Saudi Arabia overnight.
Sam Munro's strike was the difference as Australia struggled to make their first-half dominance tell in the narrow win, which saw them defend the last 10 minutes with only 10-men after Nick Tsattalios was sent off for a straight red card.
Jan Versleijen's side thrived in the opening 45 minutes of the Group D clash with Munro's clinical finish earning a slim advantage at the interval.
Australia loosened their grip on the match after the break but Thailand never really threatened despite having an extra man after Tsattlios' dismissal.
The Qantas Young Socceroos, who defeated Thailand in the AFF U-19 Championship in Bangkok last month, began impressively and dominated both possession and territory in the first quarter before being rewarded after 20 minutes.
Munro surged forward from central midfield to support his attackers and latched on to a ball before drilling a left-footed shot beyond Thailand goalkeeper Samuel Cunningham.
Meanwhile, Thailand's attempts to counter-attack were repelled by an athletic and resilient defence which kept them pegged back in their own half.
Australia should have led by more than one at the break but Mitchell Nichols spurned a glorious opportunity to double the advantage four minutes before half-time as the forward shot wide with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Playing into the wind, Australia were unable to demonstrate the dominance shown in the first period after the break as Ben Kantarovski fired over early on.
Striker Marko Jesic then had his curling left-footed shot saved by Cunningham after a direct run from electric winger Tahj Minniecon.
Thailand's first real effort came five minutes after the hour mark when Australia goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne turned Chalermsak Kaewsooktae's long-range effort around the post.
But they continued to struggle to break down Australia's defence but an audacious effort from Chalermsak almost brought an equaliser as he opted to shoot with Redmayne expecting a cross from a free-kick, but the goalkeeper was relieved as the effort went narrowly wide.
Sebastian Ryall then had a header saved from a free-kick before Thailand countered as substitute Ekkachai Ritthiphan raced on to a long ball before being pulled down by last man Tsattlios outside the area, resulting in a straight red card for the defender.
But Tsattlios' blushes were saved as Australia held on to join their next opponents Uzbekistan, who earlier beat Jordan 1-0, at the top of the group.
Australian coach Jan Versleijen was relieved to get the win, despite having dominated for large parts of the game.
“The first 20, 25 minutes we played very well,” said Versleijen. “We controlled the midfield and from the midfield we created chances. It was no coincidence that a midfielder scored the goal.”
Versleijen rued his side's lack of cutting edge in front of goal but was relieved to emerge with a win to go level with Uzbekistan at the top of Group D.
“We had a lot of opportunities to score a second goal, but because we didn't score we remained under pressure until the 93rd minute,” he added.
“But your first game you like to win. It was so important because one more win and we'll be through to the next round.”
Versleijen praised Thailand for coming back into the game but he was pleased that they hardly threatened the Australia goal.
He added: “Thailand played a good game. We played them in Bangkok two weeks ago and I think they have some talented players - they can make it difficult for any team.
“The good thing was that our goalkeeper had almost nothing to do, only some crosses and one save.”