Qantas Young Socceroos reach final of AFC U-19 Championships

Qantas Young Socceroos through to final of AFC U-19 Championship following 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia

Two second half goals from Kerem Bulut have helped the Qantas Young Socceroos to defeat Saudi Arabia 2-0 in tonight-s semi-final of the AFC U-19 Championship at the Linzi Stadium in Zibo, China.

Having already qualified for the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup by virtue of progressing to the semi-finals (finishing in the top four) of the AFC U-19 Championship, the pressure was off the Qantas Young Socceroos, but Head Coach Jan Versleijen was still keen for his team to continue their winning form and make the final.

Without the services of Mathew Leckie and Dylan McGowan through suspension, Versleijen put Mustafa Amini and Kofi Danning into the starting line-up.

The Qantas Young Socceroos looked to have made the perfect start in the 6th minute when a free kick, curled into the box, by Marc Warren, was cleared by Saudi goal keeper Abdullah Alsdairy straight to Ben Kantarovski in the 6 yard box who headed the ball into the goal. Unfortunately for the Qantas Young Socceroos, the referee and his assistant determined that Kantarovski was in an off side position and disallowed the goal.

Saudi Arabia had a chance to take the lead in the 26th minute when Yahya Dagriri unleashed a cracking strike that Qantas Young Socceroos goal keeper Mark Birighitti managed to get his hand onto to take the speed off the ball. The deflected ball continued to roll towards the goal and looked to be going in but Sam Gallagher was able to quickly track back and valiantly clear the ball off the line.

Dagriri had another chance just before half time, but his attempt narrowly went over the cross-bar to ensure a goalless score line going into the break.

The Qantas Young Socceroos made a number of tactical changes at half-time which included Terry Antonis replacing Rhyan Grant.

Ben Kantarovski had long range shot just after the hour mark, only to see his attempt from 20 metres go marginally wide of the left-hand goal post.

The deadlock was finally broken in the 70th minute after a quick free kick taken by Marc Warren found Tommy Oar out wide on the left. Oar then crossed in for Kerem Bulut who was attacking the near post. Bulut gathered the ball and pace and then neatly placed it into the back of the net.

The Qantas Young Socceroos doubled their lead five minutes later when substitute Matthew Fletcher was fouled in the box by Abdullah Al Hafith as he was heading to goal. Kerem Bulut stepped up and made no mistake with his attempt from the penalty spot for his second goal of the match and fifth of the tournament.

Matthew Fletcher had a great chance to extend his team-s lead shortly afterwards when he found himself unmarked in the box and on the end of a Steven Lustica pass but his side-footed shot was easily saved by the Saudi keeper.

Qantas Young Socceroos Head Coach Jan Versleijen was again pleased with his team-s performance and in particular the performance of his captain Ben Kantarovski.

“We started well in the first ten minutes and put a lot of pressure on their backline. After that we seemed to lose our way a bit for the remainder of the first half, were not able to threaten their goal and we allowed the tempo of the game to be slowed down. As a result the Saudi's, being well organised and with a number of creative players, put pressure on our defence and created a number of shots on goal.

“In the second half we moved our midfielders a bit more forward and started to play the ball through the midfield more, this allowed us more opportunities to create scoring chances and as a result the first goal came from a good passage of play. The game then opened up and after we converted the penalty the game was over.

“Ben Kantarovski continues to improve and develop as a leader and captain of this team. Throughout the tournament he has controlled the midfield and his performance tonight showed that he has a very bright future. I believe that if he continues developing he could have a long career as a quality midfielder,” concluded Versleijen

In the other semi-final DPR Korea defeated the Korea Republic 2-0 courtesy of a goals to Jong Il-Kwan and Ri Hyok-Chol.

The Qantas Young Socceroos will now meet DPR Korea in the final of the AFC U-19 Championship which will be held at the Zibo Sports Center on Sunday 17 October (Kick-off 7:30pm local, 10:30pm AEDT).

Match Details

Qantas Young Socceroos 2 (Kerem Bulut 70-/75-(pen)) United Arab Emirates 0

Linzi Stadium, Linzi, China PR Referee: Toma Masaaki (JPN) Assistant Referees: Nishio Hideaki (JPN) & Begench Allaberdiyev (TKM) Fourth Official: Abdul Malik Abdul Bashir (SIN) Crowd: 5,430

Qantas Young Socceroos line-up: Mark Birighitti (gk), Sam Gallagher, Ben Kantarovski (c), Kofi Danning (Matthew Fletcher 70-), Rhyan Grant (Terry Antonis 46-), Kerem Bulut, Tom Oar, Dan Bowles, Mustafa Amini, Nikola Stanojevic (Steven Lustica 58-), Marc Warren.

Substitutes Not Used: Dimitrios Petratos, Brendan Hamill, Jason Davidson, Eli Babalj, Ryan Edwards, Matthew Acton (gk), Alex Pearson (gk).

Yellow Cards: Rhyan Grant 13-, Dan Bowles 77-.