A devastating early onslaught has ensured the Socceroos are through to the AFC Asian Cup final after beating UAE 2-0 in their semi-final at a rain-soaked Newcastle Stadium on Tuesday night.
Defenders Trent Sainsbury and Jason Davidson both bagged their first internationals goals as the hosts scored twice in the first 14 minutes to seal their spot in Saturday night’s final in Sydney.
A blockbuster decider sees Ange Postecoglou’s side take on Korea Republic, the side that beat them 1-0 in the group stage just 10 days ago.
It’s Australia’s second straight Asian Cup final and with a huge Sydney crowd behind them they will expect to go one better and land their first major piece of silverware.
Confidence will certainly be high after an eye-catching a professional performance to dispose of UAE in front of more than 21,000 fans in the Hunter.
The Socceroos may have been guilty for some slow starts earlier in the tournament but they surged out of the blocks and were in front inside three minutes.
Luongo swung in a perfect corner from the right which appeared to heading straight to the heavily-marked Tim Cahill.
But the ball was just over Cahill’s head and the UAE defence left Sainsbury all alone, the defender planting it into the bottom corner.
Newcastle Stadium had lift off and any nerves the home side might have had were immediately washed away.
The home side were given a swift reminder though of the danger UAE possessed just a few minutes later.
Dangerman Omar Abdulrahman fed Abdelaziz Sanqour down the right and his cut-back was struck sweetly by Ahmed Khalil but the ball hit the base of the post and not the back of the net.
And the Socceroos made the most of the let-off on 14 minutes.
Ivan Franjic’s cross caused havoc in the penalty area with both Cahill and Mathew Lecky denied by desperate challenges.
It was Luongo who reacted the quickest to slide the loose ball to Davidson who made no mistake from just 10 yards out, driving it ppast Majed Naser at his near post.
At 2-0 up so early Postecoglou’s side had one foot in the final and they looked to press home their advantage.
The brilliant Robbie Kruse was at the centre of most of Australia’s attacks, a scheming run and cross just over Cahill’s head midway through the half before trying his luck with a shot of his own which Naser easily claimed.
UAE enjoyed their best spell just before half-time with Khalil causing most of the problems for Australia’s back four but his last pass or shot often let them down.
It meant the home side went to the sheds with their two-goal advantage firmly intact.
Khalil fired the first warning shot six minutes into the second half, rifling an effort from distance which whistled just past Ryan’s post.
Noticing he needed some more energy in the middle of the park, Postecoglou brought on Matt McKay for Mark Milligan and it helped the Green and Gold get back in the ascendancy.
With just under 20 minutes left Luongo almost got his name on the score-sheet, his curling left-footed effort was headed for the far corner if not for a diving fingertip save from Naser.
To the UAE’s credit they didn’t throw in the towel and kept probing for a route back into the contest.
But when Sainsbury capped another dominant showing with a superb sliding tackle to deny Ali Mabkhout a shot on goal in the final minute, the Socceroos job was done and now the final awaits.
Australia 2 (Sainsbury 3’, Davidson 14’)
The Socceroos will face Korea Republic in the AFC Asian Cup Final at Stadium Australia on Saturday 31 January (8.00pm local kick off). Click here to purchase tickets.
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