Kuwait stun Australia
Kuwait rocked Australia's AFC Asian Cup 2011 qualification hopes with a stunning 1-0 win today. The Kuwaitis, 125th on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, moved second behind Oman in Group B with their first victory in Australia for 32 years, and left the Socceroos bottom of the section after two games.
It was only Australia's third loss in 16 games under Pim Verbeek. The Dutch coach chose an all-A-League squad and paid a high price, with Kuwait outplaying their opponents.
Kuwait, showing the benefit of playing a couple of warm-up matches in New Zealand, rocked the disjointed Australians with a goal by defender Mesaed Al Enezi in the 37th minute. Socceroos skipper Craig Moore fouled Hamad Al Enezi, and Mesaed's header from a splendid Bader Al Mutwa free-kick beat goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic.
It was the first goal Australia had conceded in 534 minutes, after five clean sheets since the Netherlands scored in a 2-1 defeat by the Socceroos in Eindhoven last September. Kuwait last beat the Socceroos in Australia in 1977, 2-1 in a 1978 FIFA World Cup ArgentinaTM qualifier in Sydney, and they celebrated wildly after the full-time whistle.
"It was a very good result and a big win for our team, and because it's a young team they will get more motivation for the next match," said coach Goran Tufegdzic, in his first game in charge of Kuwait.
Although Verbeek has voiced his criticism of the standard of the A-League, he said he knew the Australian-based players could do much better in future matches. "I think our players can play much better than they showed tonight," he said. "They showed me on the training sessions, they showed me during the A-League they are much better."
But Verbeek did not completely rule out calling in European reinforcements when Australia's Asian Cup qualifying continues against Oman on 14 November.
Australia squandered their best chance in the 23rd minute, when striker Archie Thompson had a weak shot cleared off the line only for Tom Pondeljak to ricochet the rebound off a post with the goal beckoning.
The Australians became increasingly fraught in the second half, trying to find a way through the packed Kuwait defence, and only conjured a couple of half-chances. They lost skipper Moore with a hamstring injury five minutes before the end.
The best of their chances fell to substitute Mitch Nichols in the first minute of stoppage time, but his volley flew wildly over the bar and with it went Australia's last chance to snare an undeserved draw.