Socceroos, Serbia play out goalless thriller
Australia and Serbia fought out a pulsating scoreless draw in Melbourne on today in their first meeting since last year's FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa. The skillful Serbs, without many of their leading stars, created some great scoring chances, but the Australians, also without their big guns, gave as good as they got in the end-to-end contest.
Australia ended Serbia's quest for the last-16 at last year's FIFA World Cup with a fighting 2-1 victory in Nelspruit. On that occasion the Socceroos hit back magnificently in the second half, rocking the Europeans with two goals in four minutes in their best performance of the tournament.
It was the second game for both teams in the last few days - Australia beating New Zealand 3-0 in Adelaide and Serbia losing 2-1 in Korea Republic. "Those games were very hard for us but we played at a satisfactory level tonight, it was a game for the supporters and they saw so many chances and we had the most of them," Serbian head coach Vladimir Petrovic said.
Petrovic said among the seven debutants he fielded against Australia he nominated young Partizan midfielder Radosav Petrovic as one of his best. "He has almost 20 games in the national team but he will probably take his place in our best 11 for the EURO 2012 qualifiers and we can count on him in our next matches," Petrovic said.
Australia's German coach Holger Osieck said he had also uncovered a few new players ahead of the Socceroos' 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in September. "I got a lot more positives than negatives," Osieck said. "Maybe they had been fringe players before, but now I don't consider them fringe players at all. "Some of them have proven themselves as being potential Socceroos with good quality and I think they are going to fit in pretty well."
Following last June's pulsating game, this was another breathless encounter between the 16th-ranked Europeans and the Socceroos, four rungs below them.
Adem Ljajic was narrowly wide with a free kick in the tenth minute and midfielder Zdravko Kuzmanovic blazed just wide with Australian goalkeeper Adam Federici beaten. Australian midfielder Mile Jedinak forced goalkeeper Damir Kahriman into a scrambling save off a free kick and he again went close minutes later when his on target shot was blocked by defender Slobodan Rajkovic.
But the best chance of the opening 45 minutes was wasted by Ljajic as he blazed over the bar when it was easier to score five minutes before half-time. Brett Holman, whose long-range goal stunned the Serbians at the FIFA World Cup, brought out a diving save from Kahriman in the final minute of the half.
Federici pulled off two great saves minutes after the resumption, saving at the feet of Zoran Tosic and a flying stop to deny Ljajic. Holman let fly with two fierce volleys with the second effort just whizzing past Kahirman's left post midway through the half.
Substitute James Troisi had the home side's best chance 11 minutes from time but his shot was blocked by Kahriman, while Radosav Petrovic tested Federici with a stinging drive minutes later. Substitute Ranko Despotovic headed just wide in the final minutes off a Tosic free kick.