Cahill header downs Costa Rica
By Zee Ko:
International Friendly – 19, November, 2013
7.30 PM at Allianz Stadium, Sydney
(Tim Cahill 69′)
Costa Rica 0
A single goal was all it took in the end as seasoned battler Tim Cahill headed home a record-equalling goal to secure Australia’s 1-0 win against Costa Rica and officially usher in the era of Ange.
In doing so, Australia’s corner flag-punching tyro saved his new head coach some harder questions post-match, as Postecoglou was allowed a satisfied smile and even some self-deprecating humour.
“[Jason Davidson] was fantastic tonight, he almost scored again so he’s keeping up his ratio of goals,” Australia’s head coach joked as he referenced the left back’s own goal on debut a year ago against Scotland.
It was so nearly a case of déjà vu for the Heracles Almelo defender, as a case of early nerves saw him head the ball over his own goalkeeper under pressure.
The Socceroos would have been under the gun had Costa Rica gone ahead with only five minutes on the clock, but Davidson had fellow full back Ivan Franjic to thank as he saved his blushes with a last-second acrobatic clearance off the line.
The FIFA World No. 31 ranked visitors were giving as good as it got in the early exchanges, leading to an open game with early chances at both end.
Postecoglou had opted for Maty Ryan in goals and Rhys Williams to partner captain Lucas Neill in central defence, as Mark Milligan, Mile Jerdinak and Mark Bresciano sat deep in front of them.
That left a front three of Dario Vidosic, Matthew Leckie and Robbie Kruse to lead the Socceroos line and although the latter player looked dangerous every time he got on the ball, Leckie’s lack of a left foot seemed to tell every time he drifted wide to that flank.
Milligan’s point blank shot from a 10th minute goalmouth scramble remained Australia’s only genuine chance for much of the first half, but his scuffed shot was easily gathered by Costa Rican goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton.
It wasn’t till two minutes before the break when the hosts finally earned their second chance of the night, but the fans were left clutching their faces in disbelief as Leckie missed an absolute sitter.
Kruse had done extremely well to get past his marker on the right wing again, and he pumped a ball across the box with Pemberton stranded but an onrushing Leckie could only awkwardly shank his shot high and wide over a yawning goalmouth as his left foot let him down.
Australia was almost made to pay for the miss, as substitute Kenny Cunningham found himself in all sorts of space in the box in the 51st minute, but he inexplicably opted for a slide rule pass to no one in particular instead of a shot on target.
There were loud cheers from the 20,165 strong crowd as Cahill was introduced a minute later, replacing the promising but ineffectual Leckie.
The attacking duo Tom Rogic and Tommy Oar soon followed suit, as Australia’s substitutes started asking some pointed questions of their visitors.
Rogic in particular looked impressive upon his introduction, showing a willingness to run at the Costa Rican defenders and this he did to devastating effect.
A particularly strong drive through the middle in the 66th minute gave Michael Umana no option other than to go through the back of the Celtic midfielder, as the Costa Rican player became the first to go into referee Hiroyoshi Takayama’s book.
Three minutes later, Australia were ahead as Oar’s corner kick to the far post found Cahill rising above his markers like he’s done so many times before in his career to power a header into the net.
With the strike, Cahill equalled Damian Mori’s 29 goals for Australia, deserved recognition for one of Australia’s finest servants of the current era.
Milligan and Kruse were then withdrawn for well-deserved breaks, as Los Ticos failed to unduly trouble the Australian defence for the rest of the game.
Rogic almost sent Josh Kennedy away late on for a second goal to kill off the contest, but Umana got his timing right this time with a fantastic saving tackle to deny the lanky Australian striker.
It was a deserved win in the end, with a few issues for Postecoglou to work out in the weeks and months ahead, but the result will have given him more breathing space as the team prepares for Brazil 2014.
“I couldn’t fault the players’ endeavour nor their willingness to embrace what we want to do,” he said after the game.
“Our football was okay and will get better, and our defensive pressure was first rate.
“We took the game to the opposition and it set the standard for us going forward.”
There was also praise for Rogic and his short but eye-catching cameo, as Postecoglou admitted the midfielder’s lack of playing minutes back at his club was worrying.
“I’ve said before the game that he’s a special player and we need him playing,” he said.
“Part of the task leaving this camp is to try and find out how we can get him some game time because he is going to be an important player not just for this World Cup, but for the next couple of World Cups.
“You saw him tonight, when he runs at people, he excites everyone so we need him playing and I was pleased that we got him half an hour tonight.”
2. Lucas Neill (c), 5. Mark Milligan (17. Matthew McKay +76’), 7. Matthew Leckie (4. Tim Cahill +52’), 10. Robbie Kruse (9. Joshua Kennedy +76’), 13. Rhys Williams (19. Ryan McGowan +48’), 15. Mile Jedinak, 18. Maty Ryan (gk), 21. Jason Davidson, 23. Mark Bresciano (20. Tom Rogic +61’), 24. Ivan Franjic, 25. Dario Vidosic (11. Tommy Oar +61’)
Substitutes not used:
2. Michael Zullo, 12. Mitch Langerak (rgk), 14. Oliver Bozanic, 16. James Holland, 22. Alex Wilkinson
Coach: Ange Postecoglou
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Nil
3. Giancarlo Gonzalez, 4. Michael Umana, 5. Celso Borges, 6. Oscar Duarte, 8. Bryan Oviedo (15. Junior Diaz +58’), 9. Jonathan McDonald (Kenny Cunningham +46’), 12. Joel Campbell (10. Carlos Hernandez +79’), 17. Christian Gamboa, 18. Patrick Pemberton (gk, c), 20. Diego Calvo, 22. Jose Cubero (13. Eithel Ariel Rodriguez +76’)
Substitutes not used:
14. Randall Brenes, 19. Oscar Esteban Grandos
Coach: Jorge Luis Pinto
Yellow cards: Umana (66′)
Red cards: Nil
Referee: Hiroyoshi Takayama
Assistants: Paul Cetrangolo, Luke Brennan 4th Official: Strebre Delovski
BOTN Player points:
3. Tom Rogic (Australia)
2. Ivan Franjic (Australia)
1. Tim Cahill (Australia)
Game rating: 7/10
By Zee Ko