Qantas Joeys end Bolivia tour with a draw

On a fine afternoon in La Paz, the Qantas Joeys have fought out a 2-all draw in their final game at the highest field in world football.

On a fine afternoon in La Paz, the Qantas Joeys have fought out a 2-all draw in their final game at the highest field in world football.

After nine challenging days at altitude, the Qantas Joeys had clearly made a degree of adaptation to the thinner air, there was an expectation for a good showing and no one was disappointed in what was the most enthralling game against U19 Bolivian club team “The Strongest”.

The Qantas Joeys attacked from the outset and in the 10th minute a free kick looked like it might have given Australia an early lead but The Strongest defence put it out for a corner.

Again, a fine cross into the box by Alex Gersbach was only centimetres from being put away by the impressive MacDonald.

Qantas Joeys didn-t need to wait much longer however as five minutes later Daniel De Silva caused a turnover on the left and raced into the box.

With only the keeper to beat, De Silva was brought down giving the referee the easiest of decisions in awarding a penalty. Kevin Ly stepped up to take the spot kick and had no trouble blasting the ball into the top right hand corner past the Bolivian custodian.

The Strongest were clearly rattled by the early Qantas Joeys onslaught and were attempting to disrupt the young Aussies by resorting to some crude tackling. The Qantas Joeys kept their composure and countered with some excellent passages of play.

The second half saw The Strongest change their formation in an attempt to counter the dominant Qantas Joeys midfield.

This worked initially but the Qantas Joeys adapted and began to penetrate on the wings with good play by Todd Norris and Gersbach.

The Strongest were also looking dangerous on the counter and in the 65th minute a ball played over the top of the Qantas Joeys backline, gave them a one-on-one opportunity against Australian keeper Jordan Thurtell. The Bolivian winger calmly placed the ball into the bottom right hand corner and The Strongest were level.

The questionable sending off of Liam Rose in the 72nd minute for a second bookable offence left the Qantas Joeys undermanned for the final 20 minutes of the match but the young group rallied and continued to push forward.

In the 77th another ruthless tackle on the rampaging MacDonald resulted in a free kick just outside the box.

Alex Gersbach swung an inch-perfect cross into the path of the onrushing Qantas Joeys captain for the day James Baldacchino whose glancing header crashed into the net for Australia to regain the lead.

From that point the 10-man Qantas Joeys, with DeSilva and MacDonald combining well up front and the Aussie defence remaining resolute, looked to close out the game.

Thurtell made a fine save to stop a cracking shot from outside the box in the 82nd minute but the Bolivians weren-t going to be denied.

In the 85th-minute the Bolivians combined well down the right side and into the box saw them get a shot close to goal which they pushed across the Qantas Joeys keeper to score in the bottom left corner.

With only minutes remaining the Qantas Joeys found that extra bit of energy to push for the winner, the most likely effort being De Silva-s effort from a free kick and MacDonald-s volley from close range but it wasn-t to be and the young Aussies had to settle for a draw.

After the match, Qantas Joeys head coach Alistair Edwards was very satisfied with his team-s performance and what had been achieved on tour.

“What an excellent game of football that was, a fitting end to what has been a tough but really beneficial three weeks here in Bolivia,” Edwards said.

“We have all been taken out of our comfort zone with the challenging conditions, on top of having to play against players who are three years older, this has really fast tracked the player-s understanding of the importance of tactical discipline especially defensively, as the Bolivians had some excellent attacking players and looked to counter at every opportunity.

“Today the boys were great, the adaptation to training in the altitude was clearly evident as we were able to take the game to them. Twice we took the lead only to concede the equaliser with five minuntes to go after playing with 10 men for the last 30 minutes.

“We are now looking forward to our next challenge at the AFC Championships in Iran”, Edwards concluded .

The Qantas Joeys now head back to Australia for a well earned rest before heading to the Middle East to contest the AFC Championships in Iran later this month.

Match Details The Strongest 2 Qantas Joeys 2 (Kevin Ly 16- (p), James Baldacchino 77-).

Qantas Joeys line-up: James BALDACCHINO(c), Daniel DE SILVA, Alex GERSBACH, Kevin LY (Jordan PUDLER 80-), Joshua MACDONALD, Todd NORRIS (Steve KUZMANOVSKI 71-), Rocco PIZZATA, Liam ROSE, Matthew SCHMIDT (Jack IREDALE 78-), Matthew STEWART (Darcy MADDEN 52-), Jordan Thurtell.

Substitutes not used: Aaron CALVER, Andre JANNESE, Matthew NTOUMENOPOULOS

Did not play: Lukas STERGIOU, Brandon LUNDY

Yellow cards (Australia only): Joshua MACDONALD 14-, Liam ROSE 35- /72-, Jordan THURTELL 43-, Daniel DE SILVA 65-.

Red cards 72- Liam ROSE (2 yellows)