First-half hammering of Oman helps Australia book quarterfinal place
Australia scored three times in the first half to beat Oman 4-0 in Sydney and book their place in the quarterfinals of the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.
After an ankle injury suffered to captain Mile Jedinak against Kuwait, the Socceroos came into the match with a new-look midfield but it was Paul Le Guen's Oman who had the better of the early exchanges. A stinging shot from attacking midfielder Raed Ibrahim Saleh was parried away by goalkeeper Mathew Ryan for the first corner of the game in the fourth minute.
The Omanis were unbeaten in their three previous matches against the Socceroos and appeared unfazed by the occasion as they made life uncomfortable for the hosts.
But two goals in three minutes saw Australia assert their dominance. After the header from Trent Sainsbury in the box following a corner, McKay powered home from close range in the 27th minute.
And then on the half hour, a lovely flick-on by Massimo Luongo set Kruse on his way. The Bayer Leverkusen forward's shot crept under Al Habsi and Australia led 2-0.
Oman were fortunate to escape with only a yellow card in the 37th minute when Ahmed Al Muhaijri's studs up challenge felled Cahill.
Milligan thought he'd extended the lead on the stroke of half-time when he found the back of the net. But instead of playing advantage, Japanese referee Ryuji Sato awarded Australia a penalty for an earlier infringement on Cahill. However, Milligan, the Melbourne Victory captain, slotted home the spot kick in first half injury time to give the Socceroos a 3-0 lead at the break.
Le Guen made a double change to the start the second half with Amer Said Al coming on for Ali Al Busaidi and Ali Al-Jabri replacing Amad Al Hosni. In the 51st minute, Australia injected two new players as well. Tomi Juric replaced Cahill while veteran midfielder Mark Bresciano came on for Massimo Luongo and took over the captaincy.
After Juric tested Al Habsi in the 68th minute with a strong shot, he put the Socceroos 4-0 ahead in the 70th minute.
The tireless Leckie burst down the left and crossed to Juric whose first time effort hit the back of the net and Al Habsi made two late saves from set pieces to avoid a bigger defeat.