Australia started shakily but showed their class to overcome a plucky China outfit in their Asian Cup quarter final. Here are five key points the Socceroos will take away from the Brisbane match.Heroic Cahill's legend grows
It's rare that a player's longevity enables them to be fully appreciated as a potential all-time great within their own career lifetime, in the manner of Ryan Giggs or Paolo Maldini. In Tim Cahill, Australia have an equivalent.
We always knew Cahill was good as he banged in important goals in green and gold. But as his club profile diminished and the calibre of the Socceroos playing alongside him noticeably declined, the true value of the former Millwall man to the national team began to grow and grow and grow.
His feats in earning Australia respectability at last year's World Cup could easily have been a fitting career swansong. What better way to sign off on international football than that spectacular volley against the Netherlands?
Thankfully Cahill chose to play on and is busy writing another chapter in his personal football folklore, firing Ange Postecoglou's side into the Asian Cup semi-finals with an acrobatic overhead kick and trademark towering header. Where will the latest fairytale journey end?
Ange survives Bresciano bungle
Arguably Postecoglou's first major selection mistake of the tournament was starting Mark Bresciano over James Troisi against China.
Bresciano's ageing engine meant he couldn't press the opposition as effectively as his younger team-mates and his surprising early rustiness on the ball contributed to Alain Perrin's men getting a foothold in the game.
While the Socceroos survived a shaky start and the limited output of their veteran playmaker to dominate and win the game, they ironically could have done with the 34-year-old coming off the bench at 2-0 up to help to keep the ball and shut the game down.
The boss may well change it again and recall Troisi from the start for the semi-final in Newcastle on Tuesday.
Davidson justifies his inclusion
The battle for Australia's left-back berth continues to rage, with Aziz Behich and Jason Davidson now having played two matches apiece at this tournament.
Behich started the opener against Kuwait, Davidson came in for the Oman win but then dropped out again for the 1-0 loss to South Korea.
It was the right side of the defence that let the Socceroos down against the Taeguk Warriors in Brisbane, but the selection axe fell at left-back for the quarter-final at the same venue.
The decision to leave out Behich was not an indictment of the former Melbourne Heart man so much as a acknowledgement that Davidson's pace and attacking instinct would be important in providing width and pinning back China at Suncorp Stadium.
The West Bromwich Albion man is arguably an inferior defensive player to Behich and was caught out by an overlapping Zhang Chengdong in the first 20 minutes on Thursday, allowing China to create a good chance they could well have scored from.
However, the 23-year-old responded well to calmly shut down a dangerous counter attack soon after and delivered the goods at the other end of the field in the second half, supplying the pinpoint whipped cross for Cahill to double Australia's advantage.
Milligan upstages creaky Jedinak
Few would have predicted it at kick-off, but the return of captain Mile Jedinak to the starting line-up was far from an unconditional success.
Like Bresciano, the skipper looked off the pace and made a number of wayward passes in the opening exchanges.
The Crystal Palace midfielder picked up a yellow card as early as the 20th minute that made life uncomfortable for him in the rest of the game.
It may be heresy to suggest it outside of Melbourne Victory circles, but perhaps Mark Milligan - impressive in a more advanced role when he came on for Cahill - deserved to keep his place in the starting XI after two assured performances in front of the back four against Oman and Kuwait.
At least now in Jedinak Postecoglou has reintroduced someone he considers to be a key man to the rigours of tournament football before the semi-final and, hopefully, final, although the merit of his place in the team should not be beyond question.
Sainsbury announces his arrival
Hardly a revelation give his effectiveness alongside Matthew Spiranovic in the first three matches, the performance of Sainsbury against China was still hugely impressive and exactly what was needed in the absence of the suspended Western Sydney Wanderers centre-back.
While Spiranovic's replacement Alex Wilkinson also did well in his first competitive match since the K-League ended in late November, it was 23-year-old Sainsbury - seven years his playing partner's junior - who marshalled Australia's backline and led by example against China, suppressing the danger posed by dribble king Wu Lei as well as anticipating and intercepting a number of potential threats from other players.
He nearly opened the scoring with a powerful header in the first half and was a calm presence during China's worrying rally late in the game. A bright future awaits the PEC Zwolle stopper, who is a welcome addition to the national team fold in the continuing absence of Curtis Good and Rhys Williams.
The Socceroos will face Japan or UAE in the Semi-Finals of the AFC Asian Cup at Newcastle Stadium on Tuesday 27 January (8.00pm local kick off). Click Here to purchase tickets.
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