Late comeback not enough as Australia U23s exit AFC U23 Championship

Australia U23s' brave second-half fightback fell short of claiming a spot in the AFC U23 Championship knockout stages as Korea Republic held on for a 3-2 win in China.

Needing a result to be any hope of advancing, Ante Milicic's men rallied back into contention from a three-goal deficit courtesy of goals from Nick Cowburn and Trent Buhagiar.

But a Lee Keun-ho brace either side of Han Seung-gyu's strike proved too great a mountain to climb, with Vietnam's draw against Syria in the other Group D match ensuring even a point would not have been for Australia to avoid an early exit.


  • After a quiet opening, Korea Republic went ahead when Lee Keun-ho bundled home amid a scramble in the box.
  • Izzo came up with a pair of saves midway through the half, with Lee firing wide on the follow-up to the second.
  • Korea Republic doubled their advantage late in the half through Han, while at the other end Ajdin Hrustic saw strong claims for a penalty waved away.
  • George Blackwood began to threaten after the break, nodding Buhagiar's deflected cross against the outside of the post from a difficult angle.
  • Australia's pressure continue to build, Kang denying Blackwood and Milislav Popovic in quick succession.
  • But Milicic's men were made to pay for their profligacy as Lee completed his brace to seemingly put the result beyond doubt.
  • Having gone close to forcing an own goal, Australia were rewarded for the persistence with quickfire goals from Cowburn and Buhagiar suddenly swinging the momentum.
  • Blackwood was frustrated once more by Kang and later headed over in stoppage time with what proved to be Australia's final chance.


Lee Keun-ho, Korea Republic 18': 1-0

Han Seung-gyu brought down a high ball inside the area and saw his effort blocked on the line by Thomas Deng, but Lee was on hand to drive home the loose ball.

Han Seung-gyu, Korea Republic 44': 2-0

Han played a one-two on the edge of the area with Lee, kept his cool to avoid Deng's challenge and tucked a tidy finish past Izzo.

Lee Keun-ho, Korea Republic 65': 3-0

Lee was spotted unmarked through the middle and the striker made no mistake in a one-on-one.

Nick Cowburn, Australia 72': 3-1

Gersbach overlapped on the left and his low ball across the face squirmed through to the far post, where it side-footed in by Cowburn.

Trent Buhagiar, Australia 76': 3-2

The Central Coast Mariners winger won possession on the edge of the area and, after dribbling past a defender, squeezed a clever finish inside the near post.