Socceroos slump to Kuwait

Australia's hopes of qualifying for the 2011 Asian Cup are in the balance after stumbling to a 1-0 loss against Kuwait at Canberra Stadium.

Australia's hopes of qualifying for the 2011 Asian Cup are in the balance after stumbling to a 1-0 loss against Kuwait at Canberra Stadium.

The loss sees Australia go to the bottom of the Group B table, although with four games still to go, there is still time for the Socceroos to come back.

A first-half header from Mesaed Alenza proved the difference between the two sides, but Australian coach Pim Verbeek will have a lot of thinking to do if they are to qualify in the top two.

The Socceroos side struggled to create meaningful chances against a compact and very well organised Kuwait defence, although both Archie Thompson and Tom Pondeljak missed guilt edge chances in quick succession midway through the first half.

Kuwait was the polar opposite. Energetic, skilful, enterprising and quick, the visitors now move into second position behind top side Oman, who Australia play in its next two games. Australia, with just one point, sits bottom with Indonesia on two points, above it.

Apart from Michael Zullo's optimistic effort in the first minute, it was Kuwait which did most of the attacking inside the first 20 minutes.

A busy Talal Alamer had four shots inside the first ten minutes, the best of which was well-blocked by Craig Moore. But a minute later, an uncharacteristic Moore mistake opened the door for Walied Jumah to fire at Eugene Galekovic and the keeper could only parry it away.

Australia should have had a goal on 21 minutes when a terrible defensive mistake saw Archie Thompson facing an empty net. A desperate Kuwaiti defender denied him, but the ball rebounded to Pondeljak, who somehow hit the post from about three yards out, although he was on a fairly acute angle.

After a period where Australia had looked a good chance to open the scoring a foul by Moore created an opening for Kuwait from the dead ball on 37 minutes. Bader Almutwa took an excellent low free kick and Mesaed slipped in and he guided his header past Galekovic and the visitors had a shock lead.

Pressed into action, the Socceroos almost had a quick equaliser, but Pondeljak's shot offered no great challenge to the keeper, while Matt Simon's effort on the turn was well over the bar. The half ended with Simon and Zullo in the book and the Australians with plenty of work to do.

Moore had a chance early in the second half but his looping header was easily stopped by Nawaf Alkhaldi. Up the other end, Bader shot over twice as Kuwait seemed less than concerned about sitting on its advantage.

Mitch Nichols came on for Paul Reid as Graham Arnold pushed his side forward in hope of an equaliser, while Kuwait coach Goran Tufedgic replaced one striker, Hamad Alenezi, who had been booked for diving, with another Khaled Matar.

On 66 minutes, Zullo ducked inside but his header could not beat an advancing Nawaf who collected a defender in the process and injured himself. Zullo then departed for Fabian Barbiero.

Bader was causing all sorts of problems for the Australia's defenders and he again shot just over on 69 minutes.

Simon missed another chance, unable to get a free header on target while Khaled almost made good the decision to bring him on, hitting in the inside of the post after a great build-up from Kuwait.

Long balls peppered the Kuwaiti defence for much of the final ten minutes, but the visitors stood firm, denying the Socceroos on several occasions. Nichols summed up Australia's night in injury time, when he fired a volley over the bar from the edge of the box.

Probably the only positive to come out of the match for Australia, was the ground record crowd for a football international in Canberra of 20,032. That type of turnout is sure to boost the Canberra bid for a Hyundai A-League licence.

Australia 0 Kuwait 1 (Mesaed 37) Crowd: 20,032 at Canberra Stadium