Fans across Asia were treated to world-class football in the opening contest of Matchday 8 of the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, with Australia drawing 1-1 against fellow 2010 FIFA World Cup™ finalists Korea Republic in a fiercely-contested and entertaining game. The result saw the two heavyweights level on four points at the top of Group C ahead of Bahrain, who revived their qualifying hopes with a spirited 5-2 crushing of India.
Australia may lead the section on goal difference but they have to face Bahrain in the concluding round in four days’ time, while Korea Republic look more likely to progress with a victory against the already-eliminated, pointless Indians.
Australia 1-1 Korea Republic, Al Gharafa Stadium, Doha, Friday 14 January 2011
24’ Koo Ja-Cheol; 62’ Mile Jedinak
Coach Holger Osieck's team from Down Under had the better of the first quarter-hour, with Harry Kewell coming close to opening the scoring before Tim Cahill threatened with a half-chance. But after soaking up the early pressure, coach Cho Kuwang-Hae's young charges quickly found their way into the contest and took the lead, Ji Dong-Won smartly cutting back for Koo Ja-Cheol in the area to drive past a diving Mark Schwarzer for his third goal of the tournament.
Intensity picked up as the opening period continued, with Ji heading just over while both Kewell and Cahill spurned chances at the other end. Bossed by their Manchester United star Park Ji-Sung, the Koreans came out like a house on fire after the restart seeking to double their advantage, but after they wasted a series of clear-cut opportunities, it was the Socceroos who found the equaliser with Mile Jedinak nodding home to save their blushes.
Bahrain 5-2 India, Al Sadd Stadium, Doha, Friday 14 January 2011
7’ Faouzi Aaish, 16’, 19’, 35’ 77’ Ismaeel Abdullatif; 9’ Gouramangi Singa
The day's second game between Group C's two opening-day losers yielded the tournament’s biggest scoreline so far with Bahrain running out 5-2 winners over India. Ismaeel Abdullatif proved Bahrain’s hero, scoring four times as his side coasted to the win. After Faouzi Aaish’s opened the scoring for Bahrain and Gouramangi Singa drew India level shortly after, it was the 24-year-old’s turn to shine.
The No11 first pounced on a goalkeeping error to restore the lead, before latching onto a Jaycee John cross to make it 3-1. He went on to complete a hat-trick ten minutes from break, chesting down Aaish’s smart pass to fire into the back of the net. India reduced the deficit after the interval with Sunil Chhetri heading home from a rebound and although Aaish was sent off for picking up the second yellow on the hour-mark, Abdullatif finished off the rout with a solo effort 13 minutes from time.
Mark Schwarzer, Australia
Jedinak may have scored the equaliser for his side, but Australia were indebted to their veteran goalkeeper Schwarzer who came to his side's rescue on more than one occasion. Most notably, the 38-year-old dove to his right to block Ki Seung-Yeung's close-range effort four minutes from time to secure the precious point.
4 – With the four goals scored in the Indian win, Bahrain’s ace-striker Abdullatif currently tops the tournament’s scoring chart and will challenge for the competition’s golden boot award if he and his side fare well in the games to come.
What they said
“The game against India was important for both us and India. We showed our fighting spirit and got off well, scoring off chances in the first half. I warned my players to keep alert to any comeback by the opponents in the second period and despite having Faouzi Aaaish sent off, we kept our cool to win the game,” Bahrain coach Salman Sharida.
“It was a tough game tonight and it is a good win for Bahrain. From our perspective, we are the team who don't give up. In the second half we had a fight and when we scored a goal, we could have added another and it could have been interesting in the closing minutes. I congratulate Bahrain and hopefully we can have a good game against Korea Republic,” India coach Bob Houghton