Brett Emerton has given the Socceroos all three points with a late winner in the 1-0 win over Hong Kong in the opening game of the East Asian Cup Qualifiers in Hong Kong this evening.
In a scrappy encounter worsened by the pitch both sides had plenty of chances, although both struggled to break through as both goalkeepers were superb, Eugene Galekovic for Australia and Yapp Hung Fai for Hong Kong.
But Emerton finally broke through with five minutes left on the clock to give Australia an undeserved three points.
The first half-hour started fairly slowly for the Socceroos as Hong Kong controlled the possession.
Michael Thwaite and Mark Milligan in central midfield screened the back four of Ivan Franjic, Roberto Cornthwaite, Matt Smith and Aziz Behich, the latter bursting forward regularly.
The Australians were happy to build up from the back with Smith taking the proactive approach, while Matt McKay and Behich down the left were involved in a lot of the play.
Hong Kong were quite impressive in the opening half playing a lot better than there FIFA ranking of 172 as long balls were sent into the box, but Galekovic was solid in goals for the Socceroos.
Towards the end of the first-half the Socceroos started to combine well as Milligan drove wide, before Richard Garcia had a strike well blocked and McKay fired a volley over.
On the stroke of half-time Archie Thompson should have given the visitors the lead, but couldn’t connect on Cornthwaite’s header.
Despite the game’s scrappiness the Australians were still creating chances, although Thwaite volleyed wide and over after McKay had a viscous effort blocked.
Hong Kong though threatened on the counter, although Galekovic was up to the task turning Lo Kwan Yee’s drive around the post.
Socceroos Skipper Brett Emerton played Thompson through on the break shortly after, however, Hong Kong custodian Hung Fai charged out and denied the Victory striker’s side-footed attempt.
Both sides weren’t settling for a nil-all draw as yet again on the counter the hosts burst down the flank with Kwan Yee who forced Galekovic to tap over.
The Socceroos tried penetrating the Hong Kong defence via Emerton and Franjic down the right, but the delivery was poor, while the Hong Kong defence continued to deal with any wide threats.
Substitute Tom Rogic almost made an instant impact, but the 19-year-old’s venomous strike was well saved by Hung Fai.