Watch: Italiano scores stunner as U23's secure first leg lead over Indonesia
Australia’s quest to qualify for the AFC U23 Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2022 got off to a strong start in Tajikistan on Tuesday evening, with the green and gold defeating Indonesia 3-2 in the first of two qualification matches on neutral territory.
At the Central Republican Stadium in Dushanbe, second-half strikes to captain Marc Tokich, Patrick Wood, and Jacob Italiano helped lift Australia to victory, and ensured that either a win or draw against Indonesia when the two teams meet again on Friday will be enough for Australia to seal a slot at next June’s AFC U23 Asian Cup.
Australia enjoyed the better of the chances in the first 45, with Wood having a fifth-minute penalty saved by Indonesia shot stopper Ernando Ari Sutaryadi, before Lachlan Brook and Adisu Bayew threatened the Indonesia goal throughout the opening stanza.
However, it was in the second half of the match that the game really sprung to life, with some fantastic individual and team goals highlighting an open and entertaining contest.
Just eight minutes into the second period Australia opened the scoring through Sweden-based defender Tokich. Brentford B attacker Brook sent an inch-perfect free kick into the area, which the Mjallby AIF man expertly headed into the back of the net.
Australia doubled its advantage just before the hour mark when Wood put the finishing touches on a sizzling move through midfield involving Fabian Monge, Brook, and second half substitute Alessandro Lopane.
Eight minutes later Indonesia reduced the deficit when Witan Sulaeman sent a scorching strike from outside the area beyond Nicholas Suman, however Italiano put his entry in for goal of the game soon after when he wriggled free of two defenders before unleashing a fierce drive from the edge of the area that clattered in off the woodwork.
Indonesia regained touch in the match again with seven minutes of the fixture to play – substitute Taufik Hidayat poking home from close range to round out the scoring.
Football Australia National Technical Director, Trevor Morgan, who is in Tajikistan coaching Australia’s U23s on an interim basis, said that he felt that his side was deserving of its victory, but challenged Australia to improve at both ends of the pitch ahead of Friday’s second duel in Dushanbe.
“The effort level and the commitment of the players this evening was fantastic, and that has been a constant throughout the whole camp – these kids really want to play for their country, and we need to provide them more opportunities to do so,” Morgan said.
“The post-match data showed that we could have won the match more comfortably, but we have already challenged the group to focus on Friday’s match and demonstrate improvement at both ends of the pitch. From an attacking perspective we believe we can be more clinical, while from a defensive viewpoint we know that we can be more compact. These are two of the elements that we will focus on ahead of Friday’s fixture.”
“This result was a good reward for the effort of the players and staff over the past two weeks where we’ve trained and played in Dubai and Dushanbe. It sets us up for the second match where our target will be to secure qualification for Uzbekistan 2022, and I have full trust in our support staff to have our boys physically ready for another match in less than 72 hours’ time,” he said.
Australia had originally been scheduled to play Indonesia, as well as China PR and Brunei Darussalam in Group G of Asian Qualifying for the AFC U23 Asian Cup 2022, however after the latter two nations withdrew from qualifying the Group B match schedule was reconfigured.
As a result, the winner over this week’s two fixtures will advance to the AFC U23 Asian Cup 2022, which will be played in Uzbekistan between June 1 and 19, 2022.
Australia and Indonesia will meet again at the Central Republican Stadium in Dushanbe on Friday, 29 October 2021. Kick-off is at 5pm local time (11pm AEDT) with match updates to be provided through the official Socceroos social media channels.
Indonesia U23 2 (Sulaeman 68’, Hidayat 84’)
Australia U23 3 (Tokich 53’, Wood 59’, Italiano 77’)
Venue: Republican Central Stadium, Dushanbe, Tajikistan
Referee: Kim Woosung (Korea Republic)
Australia U23: 3. Jordan COURTNEY-PERKINS, 3. Mark TOKICH (C), 5. Jordan BOS, 6. Fabian MONGE (21. Patrick YAZBEK 72’), 7. Lachlan BROOK (20. Luka PRSO 72’), 8. Luke DUZEL, 9. Patrick WOOD, 10. Jacob ITALIANO, 11. Adisu BAYEW (17. Alessandro LOPANE 52’), 13. Lewis MILLER (2. Callum TALBOT 86’), 18. Nicholas SUMAN (Gk)
Substitutes not used: 1. Kai CALDERBANK-PARK (Gk), 12. Adam PAVLESIC (Gk), 14. Lucas MAURAGIS, 15. Taras GORMULKA, 16. Aydan HAMMOND, 19. Thymos CAROUTAS, 22. Zaydan BELLO, 23. Matthew SCARCELLA
Yellow cards: Duzel, Monge, Italiano
Red cards: Nil