WATCH: Kuol scores scorpion stunner as ten-man Australia U23's held by Iraq
The Australia U23’s were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw with Iraq after a gutsy showing in their second AFC U23 Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2022 group game.
Trevor Morgan’s side played over 75 minutes with ten men after a straight red card was shown to Kusini Yengi on 17 minutes.
However Australia soaked up the subsequent pressure and struck the game’s opening goal in spectacular fashion, as Alou Kuol lashed home a superb ‘scorpion kick’ finish on the stroke of half time.
Iraq squared the ledger ten minutes into the second period as Hasan Abdulkareem converted a well-struck volley which in the end would ensure both teams continued their unbeaten starts to the tournament.
Despite making four changes to the side that overcame Kuwait 2-0 on Matchday One, Australia started their second match at the Markaziy Stadium with a spring in their step.
Kusini Yengi was energetic early on, seeing a solo run and strike tapped into the post by Hasan Ahmed Assi Hussein inside the opening five minutes.
In the 10th minute, Ramy Najjarine found himself fed through on goal, but again Hussein stood tall to keep Australia at bay.
The game’s major turning point appeared five minutes later as Yengi was shown a yellow card for a high challenge, only for referee Riskullaev Akhrol to upgrade his decision to a dismissal following a VAR check.
Despite being a player down, Australia continued to push as Lachlan Brook threatened the Iraqi goal on a couple of occasions.
As the half appeared to be winding down, Josh Rawlins whipped in a first-time cross that was met with an outrageous flick from Kuol, with a goal for the highlight reels granting Australia a slim lead at the break.
That lead was erased 10 minutes into the second half, as Hasan Abdulkareem pounced on a lofted ball into the area and unleashed a venomous volley that left Joe Gauci with no chance.
Gauci remained alert in the minutes that followed, pulling out an important stop to keep his nation level two minutes later.
Once again Trevor Morgan made the most of his extended set of substitutes, with a triple change on the hour mark almost finding Australia the winner.
Patrick Wood and Cameron Peupion particularly threatened off the bench, going close on multiple occasions as the second half wore on.
Peupion was at the centre of a late talking point as the Brighton & Hove Albion forward appeared to be tripped in the area, sparking a lengthy VAR review that ended with the referee sticking with his on-field decision of ‘no penalty’.
Despite a late Iraq chance, both teams would in the end have to settle for a share of the spoils.
“I think the team’s performance was excellent,” said Australia U23’s Interim Head Coach Trevor Morgan.
“It was a match where moments happened for both teams, we didn’t capitalise, but we’ve got points from the first two matches which is positive.
“We still felt we could win the match (after the red card), we tried to win the match, but of course the decision after 17 minutes put up a real challenge physically.
I’m very proud of the boys, they kept the energy and structure that made it possible for us to win the match.”
With Jordan defeating Kuwait 1-0 in Group B’s other fixture, Australia remain in top spot with one match to play.
The squad now travel from Qarshi to Tashkent, where they will face Jordan at the Lokomotiv Stadium on Tuesday.
Date: Saturday, 4 May 2022
Venue: Markaziy Stadium, Qarshi
Kick-off: 6:00pm (local), 11:00pm (AEST)
Broadcast: Live and Exclusive on Paramount+
Australia Line up: 1. Joe GAUCI (GK), 3. Jay RICH-BAGHUELOU, 4. Jordan COURTNEY-PERKINS, 5. Jordan BOS, 6. Tyrese FRANCOIS ©, 7. Lachlan BROOK (17. Cameron PEUPION 60’), 11. Kusini YENGI, 9. Alou KUOL (23. Jacob FARRELL 60’), 10. Ramy NAJJARINE (19. Patrick WOOD 60'), 16. Louis D'ARRIGO (8. Patrick Yazbek 78’), 20. Joshua RAWLINS (2. Lewis MILLER 70’)
Subs not used: 12. Jacob CHAPMAN (GK), 13. Kai TREWIN, 14. Joshua NISBET, 15. Hosine BILITY, 18. Nicholas BILOKAPIC, 21. BERNARDO, 22. Tristan HAMMOND
Yellow Card: Gauci 47’, Rich-Baghuelou 77'
Red Card: Yengi 17’
Match Schedule | Australia U23 | AFC U23 Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2022
Matchday 3: Australia U23 v Jordan U23
Date: Tuesday, 7 June 2022
Venue: Lokomotiv Stadium, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Kick-off: 6pm (local); 11pm (AEST)
Broadcast: Live in Australia on Paramount+