Three goals in three second-half minutes have seen the Qantas Socceroos surge to a memorable win over Saudi Arabia at Melbourne's AAMI Park, sending them into the final stage of World Cup qualification on a massive high.
Three goals in three second-half minutes have seen the Qantas Socceroos surge to a memorable 4-2 win over Saudi Arabia at Melbourne's AAMI Park, sending them into the final stage of World Cup qualification on a massive high.
Australia looked set for their first defeat on home soil in almost three years when Saudi Arabia led 2-1 with just 17 minutes left.
But just as the visitors were dreaming of keeping their hopes of qualification for Brazil alive, Harry Kewell (73rd), Alex Brosque (75th) and Brett Emerton (76th) each scored goals to secure the three points in emphatic fashion.
Brosque finished with a brace after initially cancelling out Saleem Al Dawsari's 19th-minute strike in the 43rd minute only to see Nasser Al Shamrani put Saudi Arabia up two minutes into first half injury time.
The result means Oman, who defeated Thailand 2-0 in the simultaneous game in Muscat, join the already qualified Socceroos in the final ten in Asian qualification with the draw to be held on March 9.
It was an eventful opening five minutes with Saudi Arabia having an appeal for handball against Jade North in the box turned down before Kewell had the ball in the net from a Emerton cross only to be denied by the linesman's flag.
Both sides backed off after the frenetic start but Saudi Arabia did fire a warning shot when an effort from Ahmed Al Fraidi went over the bar 12 minutes in.
Australia didn't heed the threat and on 19 minutes, the visitors took a shock lead. Al Dawsari rounded Mark Milligan and Mark Bresciano in the midfield and fired a low 25-yard effort which Mark Schwarzer had no hope of saving.
Stung by their deficit, the Socceroos looked to respond with Brosque hitting the side netting on 22 minutes before a series of chances just after the half hour were squandered.
Bresciano and Kewell tried out Abdullah Ali from long range, with the latter forcing a strong save before Brosque's effort was headed away and a deflection denied Kewell from a free kick variation.
A clever pass from Bresciano eventually broke the Saudi resistance on 43 minutes. He put Brosque through and the J-League striker beat Osama Hawsawi to the ball and finished well to equalise.
However, Australia could not hold on until the break, with Hassan Fallatah given too much space down the right. Lucas Neill implored someone to mark Nasser Al Shamrani, but his calls went unheeded and he strolled onto the ball and rifled home on the stroke of half time.
Australia dominated the first 15 minutes after the break, with Kewell again just missing and two occasions and James Troisi hitting his effort straight at the keeper
A possible controversial moment came on 63 minutes when Lucas Neill scored what looked to be his first international goal in his 80th appearance. From what looked a clear onside position, he lobbed a header from a Spiranovic cross, but was ruled out by the eager linesman.
Kewell was pushed to the left with Archie Thompson coming on for Troisi, but continued his attack on the goal, with a header going just over on 70 minutes.
He finally got his reward on 73 minutes, when Thompson put through Brosque, who cut back well for the Melbourne Victory man to score his 17th international goal.
Two minutes later. Spiranovic put Emerton clear down the right and his cross was well met at the near post by Brosque for a quality goal.
Then with hardly time to draw breath, Bresciano pierced the Saudi defence again and an intended clearance from Kamil Al Mousa ricocheted off Emerton and into the net.
That surge killed off the contest and Australia coasted through to the next stage with 15 from a possible 18 points.
Australia 4 (Brosque 43, 75, Kewell 73, Emerton 76) Saudi Arabia 2 (Al Dawasari 19, Al Shamrahni 45+2) Crowd: 24,214 at AAMI Park
Australia's inspirational skipper declares he's fit and ready for huge 2018
The Caltex Socceroos will have a fully fit skipper when they embark on their first match in the Bert van Marwijk era. Mile Jedinak sat alongside his new national coach at the pre-game media conference ahead of Saturday morning's clash with Norway in chilly Oslo. Australia’s
Milicic upbeat as Aussies aim to surprise world’s best in Russia
EXCLUSIVE Caltex Socceroos assistant coach Ante Milicic believes the extended training camp prior to World Cup 2018 will be pivotal in supercharging Australia’s chances in Russia. Bert van Marwijk’s Australians will be in camp in Turkey from May 19 to June 7. They'll also
Van Marwijk impressed by Caltex Socceroos ahead of Norway clash
Bert van Marwijk has declared himself impressed after his first training camp with the Caltex Socceroos coach. The Dutch mentor has spoken for the first time since bringing together his inaugural squad as Australia coach. “My first impression is very positive,” van Marwijk
5 key facts ahead of Caltex Socceroos v Norway
The Caltex Socceroos begin life under Bert van Marwijk in the early hours of Saturday morning (AEDT) when they take on Norway in Oslo in a crucial pre-2018 FIFA World Cup friendly. While Australia hasn’t fared well in friendly matches in recent years, they have never lost to N