Australia leave Uzbeks on a knife-edge
© AFP

Australia plunged Uzbekistan further into the FIFA World Cup™ mire with a 1-0 win to successfully launch the final stage of their Asian qualifying campaign for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.

Basel defender Scott Chipperfield's 26th-minute header clinched all the points in Australia's first senior international with the Uzbeks, controlling the match through their experienced European brigade.

The loss heaped more pressure on Uzbekistan, who remain pointless after two games following their demoralising 3-0 loss to Qatar in Doha last weekend. The Uzbeks' survival now hinges on a crucial away match against Japan in Saitama on October 15, while the Australians' next assignment is a home match against Qatar in Brisbane on the same night.

"It was tough match for both teams," Australia coach Pim Verbeek told reporters. "All of my boys did their jobs very well. Uzbekistan held no surprises for me, I knew this team was very good."

Chipperfield, playing in his first international for 19 months, scored the winner with a free header in the 26th minute after a cross from right-back Luke Wilkshire. He had the freedom to steer his downward header past goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov from just outside the six-yard box.

It was a great performance. The first game of qualifying, you want to get off to a great start, which we did
Goalscorer Scott Chipperfield on Australia's performance.

"," Chipperfield told Australian television. "We're going to be confident going to the next few games now... today's a great bonus for us."

The Uzbeks were largely disjointed throughout the match and well bossed by the Australian defence marshalled by West Ham United defender Lucas Neill. Australia, attempting to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals through Asia for the first time, had a wonderful opportunity to double their lead in first half injury time through Palmero's Mark Bresciano.

Bresciano, sent clear on goal by Harry Kewell, could not hit the target in his one-on-one on Nesterov's goal with a chance that would have killed off the match. Grosseto holding midfielder Carl Valeri picked up his second yellow card of the qualifying campaign to force him out of Australia's next FIFA World Cup game against Qatar.

Striker Maksim Shatskikh, held in check by the Australians, had what appeared a strong penalty appeal turned down by Kuwaiti referee Saad al Fadhli five minutes after halftime when he was brought down by Bresciano. Uzbekistan put the Australian defence under greater pressure in the second half after a change of tactics and showed more urgency, but the Socceroos weathered the threat to securely see out the match.

Australian coach Pim Verbeek took off Bresciano for Sheffield United's David Carney in the 73rd minute for some fresh legs. Carney minutes later missed a great chance to kill off the game on a break engineered by Harry Kewell only to limply run the ball out.

The Australians had a pre-match setback when key PSV Eindhoven midfielder Jason Culina withdrew with a stomach bug and was replaced by Jacob Burns.