Mathew Leckie's winner with almost the last kick of the game helped the Caltex Socceroos to a 1-0 over Greece at a wet ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.
Just as it appeared like the match was destined for a 0-0 draw, Leckie cut inside from the left and blasted a powerful shot into the bottom corner to snatch victory in front of almost 40,000 fans.
As they did against England seven days ago, the Socceroos dominated possession and chances but this time got the reward their play deserved.
The winning goal had been coming after defender Trent Sainsbury hit the post with nine minutes left, while substitute Tim Cahill thought he’d headed home the winner in the final minute, only for the assistant to rule Alex Gersbach’s corner had floated out of play.
But it mattered little as Leckie provided a moment of magic right at the death to take the win.
Coach Ange Postecoglou handed a debut to Jason Geria, who was solid at right-back, while Gersbach also got his first cap as an 82nd minute substitute.
Milos Degenek made his first start in the green and gold and was immense in the heart of defence alongside Sainsbury, while it was Greece-born Apostolos Giannou who led the line.
But it was the visitors who carved out the opening chance inside three minutes with Apostolos Vellios unable to keep his header down.
With Aaron Mooy seeing plenty of the ball, the Caltex Socceroos dominated possession but the bumpy surface made it hard to play fluently through Greece’s two banks of four.
Skipper Mile Jedinak and Mark Milligan had long-range efforts as the home side took control but Greece were always looking to hit on the counter through the dangerous Vellios and Vassileios Torosidis.
Nathan Burns had Australia’s best chance of the first half on 26 minutes when he was slipped through by Robbie Kruse only to scuff his effort from just inside the box.
Greece’s substitute keeper Stefanos Kapino – forced on early for the injured Orestis Karnezis – then produced two acrobatic saves just before the break.
First he prevented what would have been an embarrassing own goal by defender Marios Oikonomou before parrying Milligan’s powerful shot in stoppage time to send the teams to the sheds at 0-0.
The Socceroos continued to press early in the second half with Jedinak blazing a free-kick over the bar while Giannou put a gilt-edged chance wide, only to have his blushes spared saved by the offside flag.
On the hour Postecoglou made a double substitution, bringing on Leckie and Tom Rogic for Robbie Kruse and Aaron Mooy.
And the home side stayed on the front foot, almost edging in front through Milligan, his clever flick from Burns’ corner going straight into the arms of Kapino.
With just under 20 minutes left Cahill and Chris Ikonomidis were introduced as the Socceroos went on search of a winner.
The visitors started to tire visibly and were almost punished nine minutes from the end as Sainsbury found a metre of space in the box to get in a low shot which hit the post and bounced away.
Cahill’s disallowed goal followed soon after and just as it looked like that would be it, Leckie made himself the hero.
The sides now head to Melbourne for the second game of the series on Tuesday night.
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