Qantas Under 23's start with good win over Croatia
The Qantas Under 23’s kicked off their Intercontinental Cup tournament with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Croatia at the KLFA Stadium in Cheras, Malaysia overnight.
The Qantas Under 23-s kicked off their Intercontinental Cup tournament with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Croatia at the KLFA Stadium in Cheras, Malaysia overnight.
Perth Glory striker Nikita Rukavytsya gave Australia a first half lead, with Troy Hearfield and James Troisi adding second half goals.
Graham Arnold handed an Olyroo debut to Queensland Roar winger Michael Zullo, while Spase Dilevski played his first game since February 2007.
After a cautious start by both sides as they sized each other up, it was Australia that grabbed the initiative in the 19th minute when Rukavytsya headed home, after Nigel Boogaard had flicked on Nikolai Topor Stanley-s long throw.
But Rukavytsya-s day was shortlived when he had to come off just after the half hour with a corked thigh, replaced by Mariners striker Matt Simon, for just his second appearance in the green and gold.
Simon almost had his name on the goalscorer-s list five minutes after the break, when he met a Dilevski corner with a firm header, but the Croatian keeper produced a good save.
Hearfield scored a terrific goal two minutes later though when he was put through by Mark Bridge, who was skipper for the match, to double the advantage for Australia.
James Troisi, made a quick impact after coming on as a substitute for Hearfield in the 70th minute, scoring just three minutes after coming on. His run and shot after cutting in from wide on the touchline was superb individual goal and further underlined his growing reputation.
Arnold was satisfied with the outcome, although concerned over injuries sustained by goalscorers Rukavytsya and Hearfield.
“I was very pleased with the workrate of the players in hot conditions and their mental attittude was very good. Having played 15 or 16 Olympic qualifiers in Asia, we know exactly how to slow down the game.
“Croatia are a good side but their players are young by one or two years. In this age group, one or two years can make a lot of difference physically. To get the win was a good start to the tournament.”
“I hope it-s not serious,” said Arnold in relation to the injuries.
Australia next play Chile, who thrashed Togo 5-1 in the other Group B game.
Australia 3 (Nikita Rukavytsya 19-, Troy Hearfield 52-, James Troisi 74-) Croatia 0
Australian line-up: Tando Velpahi (gk); Ruben Zadkovich, Nigel Boogaard, Aaron Downes, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Spase Dilevski, James Holland (Adam D-Apuzzo 75-), Mark Bridge, Michael Zullo, Nikita Rukavytsya (Matt Simon 32-), Troy Hearfield (James Troisi 70-)
Cautions: Ruben Zadkovich (90-)
In other news from the tournament, Togo-s coach revealed that Arsenal star Emmanuel Adebayor will be coming and will face Australia in the third and final group game.
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