AFC Asian Cup: Australia draw with Oman, hosts Vietnam upset UAE

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Monday, July 9, 2007

Australia playing Oman in their Group A fixture at Rajamangala Stadium, Bangkok.
Image: AsianFC.

Tournament favourites and debutants Australia have drawn 1-1 with a skillful Oman in the second match in Group A of the 2007 AFC Asian Cup.

Oman shocked the Socceroos when they scored on thirty-two minutes, after some enterprising play on their left-hand flank. A ball cut back made its' way through the Australian defence to Omani striker Badar Mubarak, who slotted the ball low into the left-hand corner of the goal.

Oman very nearly had a second goal on three separate occasions in the second half. They were only denied by three world-class saves by Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, including a low save from a driving volley by Ahmed Mubarak, a reflex save to stop a point-blank header in the seventieth minute, and then another low-down save minutes later from Fawi Bashir's driving shot.

A heavy downpour began ten minutes prior to the final whistle, and it appeared to reinvigorate Australia. They pressed forward in numbers, and were rewarded in injury time with a goal to Everton midfielder Tim Cahill, after a low volley by Marco Bresciano was well-saved by Omani keeper Suleiman Al Mazroui.

Cahill achieved the remarkable double of scoring both Australia's first Asian Cup and World Cup goals, after he scored in the eighty-third minute of their match against Japan at the 2006 FIFA World Cup. He and John Aloisi capped off the comeback by scoring twice late to defeat Japan 3-1.

The Australian players were visibly frustrated by Oman's play-acting tactics, which saw the stretcher used four times in the first half alone. British match commentator Simon Hill described the tactics as "a blight to the game" and "absolutely rubbish", the latter in relation to one incident where no contact was made whatsoever. When queried about it after the game, Arnold said cynically "welcome to Asia".

Australian coach Graham Arnold at the post-match media conference.
Image: AsianFC.

The Australians were flat and their defending was poor, said coach Graham Arnold at the post-match media conference. He also commented on goalkeeper Schwarzer's three fantastic saves, saying "Mark Schwarzer's got us out of jail. Schwarzer's made two unbelievable saves, otherwise it's 2-0 and all over".

The draw leaves all four Group A teams equal on the table on one point, with one goal for and one against, following Iraq 1-1 draw with hosts Thailand yesterday.

In the other game played yesterday (UTC), co-hosts Vietnam caused a major shock by defeating United Arab Emirates in their Group B fixture.

The Emirates are the current Gulf Cup champions, and the hosts were expected to struggle to win this match, or progress from Group B which includes two-time Asian champions Japan and Asian Games gold medallists Qatar. Vietnam is playing at Asian Cup level for the first time in nearly half a century.

UAE had the better of the chances in an otherwise-even first half, with the best Faisal Khalil's shot in the thirtieth minute, which was well-saved by Vietnamese goalkeeper Duong Hong Son who managed to turn the ball around the post for a corner.

However, they scored two second half goals to take the three points from the My Dinh National Stadium. On sixty-three minutes, a counter-attack from the half-way line involving three Vietnamese players resulted in defender Huynh Quang Thanh putting the ball in the back of the net.

Vietnamese player of the year Le Cong Vinh made it 2-0 nine minutes later when he chased down a long ball and calmly lobbed it over Emirates goalkeeper Majed Nasser, who had come off his line to try and avert the danger.

Bruno Metsu, coach of the United Arab Emirates, substituted players and launched an all-out attack to try and salvage something, but failed to find the goals he needed.

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