Australia trounce Iran in Adelaide

The Qantas Under 23’s have put themselves firmly in the box seat for the second qualifying spot from Group D, after a gripping 3-1 win at Hindmarsh Stadium in Adelaide tonight.

The Qantas Under 23-s have put themselves firmly in the box seat for the second qualifying spot from Group D, after a gripping 3-1 win at Hindmarsh Stadium in Adelaide tonight.

In an often tense affair, Australia was forced to battle for the last 25 minutes with only 10 men, after Mark Bridge was sent-off on the linesman advice following an off-the-ball incident.

However a commanding defensive performance held the 3-1 lead intact until the final whistle and with a good deal of confidence going into the final game against Jordan in three weeks time. A point from that game will see them through to the next and final phase of qualifying for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

The match got off to an electric start, with both sides scoring inside the first four minutes, setting the tone for the remainder of the match.

Australia scored first after two minutes, when a second successive corner was headed home by English-based defender Aaron Downes, who was playing his first match at this level.

However his and the home team-s joy was soon short-lived though, as a perfectly weighted through ball was picked up by Amraei, who held off the challenge of Downes, to thread his shot past Danny Vukovic.

Minutes later, Australian captain Mark Milligan almost had Australia back in the lead, but his effort was just over the bar.

Australia continued to press though and won a series of corners, with the fifth almost paying dividends, when Adelaide United-s Nathan Burns hit a firm shot that was cleared off the line.

Milligan thought he had Australia back in the lead in the 39th minute, when he had the ball in the back of the net, but the goal was ruled away after the referee penalised Downes for an infringement on the keeper.

But they didn-t have to wait long for the second, when Iran captain Kaebi brought Newcastle United midfielder and former local Adelaide junior James Troisi down inside the box, with the ref pointing to the spot. Bridge made no mistake from the spot to send Australia deserved leaders into the half time break.

The first ten minutes after the break was going to be telling and so it proved, with Australia holding a spirited opening few minutes and then nailing the all-important third goal.

The goal, finished off by Troisi, was brilliantly worked, with Nikolai Topor-Stanley passing truly for Troisi, who placed it smartly past the Iran keeper from 6 metres out.

It was nearly four, minutes later, when a dangerous corner from Sarkies was nearly turned into the net by an Iran defender, while an effort from Sarkies went straight to the keeper.

Vukovic needed to be on his toes in the 62nd minute, when a long range shot from Midavoodi was goalward, but the Central Coast Mariners custodian took it cleanly.

However the match took a twist, when a fracas broke out between the players in the 65th minute, which resulted in Bridge receiving a red card and Australia left with a nervous last 25 minutes with just 10-men.

However but in true Aussie style, rather than sit back and defend the lead, the Australian-s continued to attack, with substitute Nick Ward almost scoring with his first touch of the ball, a stinging shot that went just over the crossbar.

Sarkies thought he had secured the fourth goal when he powered a header at goal, but Iran keeper Makani pulled off a world-class save.

The final ten minutes saw Iran desperately try to pull back the two goals, but the strong Australian defence held out for a well-deserved win.

Outgoing Under 23 coach Rob Baan was obviously delighted with the win and how the team took the initiative from the start.

“I-m very happy with the performance of the team throughout the whole game,” said Baan.

“The players took the initiative and showed throughout the match that they wanted to control the game. That is the way we should play and we did.

“I think we showed what we can achieve when we have a complete squad of players and it's for these reasons that we won this game."

The result leaves Australia three points ahead of Iran, who will face group leaders Saudi Arabia in Tehran. Australia also has a +3 better goal difference.

Match Details

Australia 3 (Aaron Downes 2, Mark Bridge 43- pen, James Troisi 53-) Iran 1

Australian starting line-up: Daniel Vukovic (gk), Trent McClenahan, Aaron Downes, Mark Milligan (c), Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Leigh Broxham, Kristian Sarkies (Bruce Djite 81-), Neil Kilkenny, Mark Bridge, Nathan Burns (Nick Ward 69-), James Troisi (Dario Vidosic 93-+). Subs not used: Adam Casey, Adam D'Apuzzo, Peter Eleftherakis, Tando Velaphi (gk)

Cautions: Topor-Stanley (94-+) Expulsions: Bridge (66-)