A Tim Cahill brace saw Australia easily advance past China in the quarter finals of the 2015 Asian Cup.
The tournament hosts struggled in the early minutes at Brisbane Stadium, with China’s Wu Lei having multiple opportunities in the penalty area that required fast thinking by the Socceroo defence. Defensive midfielder Miles Jedinak in particular seemed nervy, with several errors culminating in a 19th-minute yellow card.
Yet it was Team Dragon who were looking for the ball for most of the half, earning just 22 percent possession to Australia’s 78. Alain Perrin’s side demonstrated the defensive fortitude which saw them top Group B with three wins, successfully completing several key tackles in their end and largely keeping their opponents from creating too many chances.
After over 20 minutes without a shot, the Australia attack which scored eight goals in the group stage started to go into action. Trent Sainsbury’s 36th-minute header went right to the defender, a play echoed moments later by veteran Tim Cahill. Yet both teams entered the halftime locker room scoreless in a match that hardly rivalled the intensity of South Korea-Uzbekistan earlier in the day.
It took just three minutes for Cahill to change that in the second half with a thunderous bicycle kick to put the Socceroos in the lead and send the relatively tame Brisbane crowd into a frenzy.
Cracks appeared in the Chinese squad soon after, with Zhang Linpeng shown a yellow card in the 54th minute. Their next solid attack didn’t come till four minutes later, when half time substitute Jiang Zhipeng disappointing sent his shot high over the crossbar.
Poor defending would be China’s undoing, however, as Cahill again beat out the defender to head in his second goal of the night and put Australia permanently in the lead. With ten minutes remaining the veteran was substituted for Mark Milligan to a deserved standing ovation from the Socceroo faithful.
Milligan ran through the defenders soon after to create a chance, but was denied by Wang Dalei. Australia were not able to add to their total, but had little to complain about when referee Kim Jeong-hyeok blew the final whistle.
Ange Postecoglou’s men now advance to the semifinals, where they will play the winner of Friday’s Japan-UAE showdown in Sydney. China, meanwhile, will return home winners in the eyes of many having reached their first knockout stage since the 2004 tournament which they hosted.