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.
STORY OF THE GAME
- 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.
Aussies Abroad: Rogic shines, debut for Caltex Socceroos defender
This week may have seen Daniel Arzani dominate headlines on Australian soil following his highly-anticipated move to the Scottish champions, but it was Caltex Socceroos teammate Tom Rogic who stole the show for Celtic yesterday evening (AEST). Meanwhile, it was a difficult mor
Caltex Socceroos veteran unites with Maclaren at Hibernian
Hibernian have signed Caltex Socceroos veteran Mark Milligan on a two-year deal, subject to securing a work permit. The 33-year-old was most recently on the books of Al-Ahli in Saudi Arabia and will now link up with national team colleague Jamie Maclaren at the Scottish outfit
We showcase the best kits worn by Aussies Abroad this season
Clubs are well and truly stepping up their kit game as we enter the new season. An attractive strip can unite - or divide - fans across the globe, from England's Premier League to the German third tier. ARZANI: How will he be used by the Scottish champions? AUSSIES ABROA