Australia will take part in their second straight Asian Cup final after a 2-0 dismantling of UAE on Tuesday night.
Newcastle’s Hunter Stadium hosted a sold-out crowd of just over 21,000 that admittedly lacked the atmosphere of other Australia games played in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane.
Two Socceroos recorded their first goals in national team colours in what became a relatively simple encounter for the now-free scoring side that were known before the tournament for their attacking problems.
Trent Sainsbury gave the Socceroos an ideal start to the encounter when he found himself free to head home the opening goal from the host nation’s first corner of the match inside the first three minutes of the match.
The UAE almost returned fire at the ten minute mark when Aldelaziz Sanqour found space to run into the box and cut the ball across to Ahmed Khalil, but the striker’s shot grazed the wrong side of the post to the dismay of their loud group of supporters at the top of the stands.
Australia’s defence quickly became the most prominent attacking force when Jason Davidson finished off a short flurry of shots that started with Mathew Leckie’s blocked shot and ended with Massimo Luongo sliding to pass the ball to the West Bromwich Albion player to slide past Mahjed Naser.
As the trains continued to sound their horns along the Newcastle tracks, so did the UAE’s attempts to derail the Socceroos’ control of the game, with Omar Abdulrahman – who had earlier been labelled as “lazy” by opening goalscorer Sainsbury – seen moving into his own half on several occasions to win back the ball and making himself a focal point of the attacks.
UAE attempted in the second half to draw fouls inside the Australia penalty box, leading themselves towards the Socceroos defence on several occasions, while Australia were happy to slow down some of the UAE’s pacier attacking weapons, including the springy Omar.
A largely open yet medium-paced second half didn’t seem to keep away the groans of the 21,079 fans when the rain started coming down, while opening match MVP Luongo attempted to curl the ball in past Mahjed in the 72nd minute, but his shot missed both the diving goalkeeper’s reach and the netting.
Leckie’s cross into the box in the 75th minute was tipped away from the goal by Mahjed, but Uzbek referee Ravshan Irmatov seemed to have missed the touch and gave a goal kick to the ire of the majority percentage of the stadium wearing green and gold.
The crowd grew louder towards the final minutes of the game, with feeling that the final was in sight, which seemed to be reflected by the Socceroos players, who picked up the pace and attacked with more conviction than they had earlier in the half.
The UAE became growingly frustrated with the pressure of Australia, starting to also to launch aimless shots from distance in the hope that they could get the goal that could bring them quickly back into the game, but it wasn’t to be for the gulf nation.
Australia will now travel to Sydney for the final against Uli Stielike’s South Korea on Saturday, while the UAE will stay in Newcastle to play the consolation third place match against Iraq on Friday night.