Milligan double gets Australia home

A double from captain Mark Milligan has given the Qantas Under 23’s a 3-2 win over New Zealand in an entertaining match at North Sydney Oval on Saturday.

A double from captain Mark Milligan has given the Qantas Under 23-s a 3-2 win over New Zealand in an entertaining match at North Sydney Oval on Saturday.

In the teams- final hit-out before heading for a three-week tour around Asia leading up to the Olympics in August, Milligan scored a goal in each half, including the winner in the 78th minute. Kristian Sarkies scored the other goal for Australia, while former Sydney FC striker Jeremy Brockie scored both goals for New Zealand.

Australia dominated for much of the match and probably should have won by a bigger margin, but coach Graham Arnold was happy that the team created the chances they did and were able to get the win in the end.

The match almost got off to a sensational start, when Ruben Zadkovich almost had Australia in front after just 31 seconds; his lunging effort to meet a low cross going over the bar.

The match settled down after that and it was Brockie that started to impose himself on the game with two chances; the first saved by Velaphi after 17 minutes and the second a snap shot that went just wide in the 21st minute.

Perth Glory-s Nikita Rukavytsya saw his effort a minute later cleared off the line by Michael Boxall, as the chances started to come for both sides.

The breakthrough came in the 26th minute and it was Milligan, who like he does so often powered a header into the top corner from a Sarkies corner kick.

The celebrations though were short-lived, as Brockie looped a header over Tando Velaphi from a free kick.

However Sarkies was able to restore Australia-s lead when he brilliantly smashed home a volley in the 38th minute, after New Zealand had only half cleared a flicked on header.

Brockie though was building in confidence and seven minutes after the break, he picked up a loose ball 25 yards out; went past Matt Spiranovic and then around Velaphi and from an angle placed his shot into the empty net.

The introduction of Mark Bridge with a little over 20 minutes remaining saw Australia lift the tempo and Sarkies went close with a header, while Rukavytsya went over the bar with a shot from the edge of the area.

Milligan broke the deadlock with 12 minutes remaining, picking up the ball 8 yards out after a dangerous free kick by Sarkies; rounding one defender and slotting home.

Sarkies was denied a late goal, when he hit another volley from 10 yards, this time his effort was tipped over the bar.

Speaking after the match, Qantas Under 23s Head Coach Graham Arnold was happy with result but was realistic about the areas his team need to work on

"We have been working a lot on our combination play and I was very pleased with our performance in stages," he said.

"If anything I was a little disappointed that we didn't get on the end of things. We should be able to kill those games off earlier.

"At the moment I'd say that we are around 75% fitness levels and over the next three and half weeks we want to increase that by another 20-25% to peak in China.

"We do need to work on our defence. The first goal came from a set move so we need to improve on that.

"But overall we played some good football and now we are looking towards the opening match of the Olympic Games against Serbia on the 7th of August, concluded Arnold.

Match Details

Australia 3 (Mark Milligan 26-/78-, Kristian Sarkies 38-) New Zealand 2 (Jeremy Brockie 28-/52-)

Australian line-up: Tando Velaphi (gk); Jade North (Adrian Leijer h/t), Stuart Musialik (Billy Celeski 72-), Mark Milligan, Nikola Topor-Stanley, Kristian Sarkies, James Troisi, Matthew Spiranovic, Trent McClenahan, Nikita Rukavytsya (Matt Simon 79-), Ruben Zadkovich (Mark Bridge 63-)

Subs not used: Chris O-Connor (gk); Archie Thompson, Nigel Boogaard, James Holland, Leigh Broxham

Cautions: Troisi (83-)

Referee: Srebre Delovski