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Melbourne, Jan 9 (IANS) Hosts Australia survived an early scare to open their Asian Cup campaign in grand style following a 4-1 victory over Kuwait here Friday.
A boisterous home crowd of 25,231 had been silenced when Ali Hussain Fadhel gave underdogs Kuwait a surprise lead early in the match, reports Xinhua.
However, Australia were quick to respond and by half-time they were in the ascendancy. The country’s all-time leading scorer Tim Cahill scored the equaliser, before Massimo Luongo’s fine header put the Socceroos in front.
Mile Jedinak converted a second-half penalty, while James Troisi completed the rout as Australia eased to a routine victory to stamp their authority on the tournament.
Following an entertaining opening ceremony, a lively atmosphere greeted the players upon their arrival to the pitch. But that positivity was extinguished in just the eighth minute when Kuwait struck with the game’s first foray forward.
Virtually non-existent marking from the Australians allowed Hussain Fadhel to find space inside the area, glancing Fahed Al Ebrahim’s in-swinging set piece into the bottom corner.
It silenced a previously vocal home crowd, with Kuwait maintaining their solidity at the back and ensuring a frustrating opening period for the Socceroos.
With the visitors sitting deep, it was going to produce a moment of magic for Australia to level the scores. Just after the half-hour mark, Luongo provided that with an exceptional turn to weave his way into space.
The 22-year-old, making just his sixth senior international appearance, then kept his composure, finding Cahill in the middle. With a clinical finish, he placed his shot into the roof of the net.
All of a sudden, the sellout Melbourne crowd re-found their voice. Soon, their team found the lead.
On the stroke of half-time, Ivan Franjic’s pinpoint cross found Luongo in the middle. With a leaping header, the youngster gave Australia a vital lead at the interval.
Rejuvenated by taking the lead, Australia began the second period with a renewed sense of purpose.
Cahill should have doubled the advantage, only to be denied by a fine save from Hameed Youssef, before Troisi struck the crossbar with a powerful effort.
Eventually, the pressure paid, with Robbie Kruse tripped by Sultan Alenezi inside the area and a penalty awarded. From the spot, Jedinak kept his composure to send the goalkeeper the wrong way.
Kuwait immediately sought about finding a reply. Fresh from the substitutes bench, Yousef Naser found himself in a promising position, only for his angled effort to be kept out by Mat Ryan.
Moments later Alebrahim had another chance to halve the margin, but saw his rasping volley touched onto the bar by Ryan.
With the visitors pushing men forward in the hope of reducing the deficit, Australia began to counter and created chances on the break.
Substitute Nathan Burns nearly had an instant impact, striking the crossbar with a glancing header following Aziz Behich’s cross, before Tomi Juric, Troisi and Burns all had efforts kept out by a series of sprawling Hameed saves.
Troisi would ultimately put the icing on the cake in stoppage time, driving home at the near post to complete a satisfying night for the hosts.