Aussies take charge of Group B with winning start against India

By Samindra Kunti in Doha

January 13 – Australia laboured to a 2-0 victory against India with second-half goals from Jackson Irvine and Jordan Bos in their opening match of the Asian Cup to take command of Group B, but will need to improve to leave a mark on the tournament. 

Even before the first ball was kicked history was made at the Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium with Japanese referee Yoshimi Yamashita becoming the first woman referee in Asian Cup history to take charge of a men’s game. Having refereed at the Tokyo Olympic Games, she was not fazed by the intimidating atmosphere created by the Indian fans in the stands.

They saw India hold their shape in a 4-5-1 formation in the opening phases of the match and striker Sunil Chettri fired a first warning to the Australians with a close-range header that sailed just wide.

The Socceroos however should have taken the lead in the 23rd minute after a goalmouth scramble following an ill-judged foray as sweeper keeper by Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh. His footwork was exposed, but India narrowly escaped.

The Indian defence showed signs of creaking under the Australian pressure, with full-back Rahul Beke playing out of position in the heart of the backline. Australia bombarded the Indian box, but even so, Graham Arnold looked on pensively. India kept frustrating the 2015 Asian champions ranked 77 places higher on the world ranking.

India manager Igor Stimac made a sign of the cross when the fourth official showed five minutes of injury time at the end of a half that saw Australia have 14 attempts, 12 corners and 72% of ball possession.

All of India’s hard work was forgotten minutes after the restart when Singh failed to claim a cross from the right wing, flapping at the ball with his right arm, the ball dropping to midfielder Jackson Irvine who drilled it home from close range, 1-0. It was unforgiving for the Blue Tigers, who had only themselves to blame for conceding.

A fuming Stimac and his side were now left chasing the game against an opponent, buoyed by Irvine’s crucial strike. Maintaining their attacking impetus, the Australians were playing with more freedom. They kept moving India around at the back and used Irvine to break through the lines, but lacked precision in the final third.

In the 69th minute, the Indians had a sniff of goal when Keanu Baccus’s contact cannoned past Matt Ryan and him, only for the ball to trickle just wide of the goal. It would prove to be India’s last chance at a route back into the game. Substitute Jordan Bos tapped in Australia’s second with his first touch of the game in the 73rd minute after McRiley McGree teed him up from the left. Indian heads dropped and the tempo of the game nosedived, even if Singh foiled a Bruno Fornaroli freekick and Bos drove wide.

India demonstrated that they have come a long way since a 4-0 defeat to Australia at the 2011 Asian Cup, but one half of discipline was not enough against a quality side. They meet Uzbekistan next. Graham Arnold’s side will reflect on getting three points, two goals and a clean sheet, but knowing that they will need to improve as the tournament progresses.

Contact the writer if this story at moc.l1713304779labto1713304779ofdlr1713304779owedi1713304779sni@i1713304779tnuk.1713304779ardni1713304779mas1713304779

 


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