A Dozen years since the last encounter and the first time on English soil Australia got it's chance to thrash the Poms at yet another sport. The other ones got a little tiresome. I personally received a few e-mails suggesting the English team would do some things to the Australians which are very much outside the parameters of the game. One suggested it would be a cricket score. If form is anything to go by an English cricket score would be quite beatable on a football pitch.
Also the irony of Wembley being dismantled by an Australian company causing this match to be played elsewhere is amusing too.
Having waited that long the match was delayed about 15 minutes thanks to some security scare at nearby Kings Cross station. Ah but the terror would come inside the stadium for the English...
The English turned out in the away colours of red and white, not sure why but I guess it hardly matters.
Australia had two early chances, one a Kewell cross almost met by Scott Chipperfield but going over the bar thanks to Neville and soon after Kewell took a long range effort from over 20 metres out which had a late swerve on it giving David James a bit of work having to dive to push the ball wide.
True enough England too enjoyed some good passages of play but deep down you knew they were capable of better. Despite all the talk of Australia being respected you couldn't help but feel the England players felt that they could take the match without having to upset their club managers by extending themselves and being tired for some useless match between two sides called Arsenal and Manchester United in some unheard of competition for the FA Cup.
Sure enough the gods were angered by the lack of hubris and a free kick from out wide by Lazaridis floated across the goalface to the far post where Tony Popovic rose highest to head the ball back across, and tellingly into, the net. It was about that time it became clear just how many Australians were in the stadium..quite a few it seems.
A long Beckham cross to Dyer to create a break ended up in a goalmouth scramble at the feet of Paul Scholes who slammed the ball into the net only to find the Linesman casting doubt on his positioning (actually on replays it looked like a free kick for a push on Tony Popovic). It may have taken 20 minutes for England to realise that there was a game to be played.
Soon afterwards Schwarzer tried to outdribble Michael Owen after a backpass which resulted in the side netting being rippled. Waves of disturbance too in the minds of the Australians perhaps.
It was a common feature of play. Australia would scramble the ball forward with varying degrees of success and England would do it somewhat better but also lost the ball or shoot wide. You got a sense that while England might be a better candidate for the next goal it wouldn't be too surprising if, national fervour aside, they didn't get one at all.
Australia were getting their share of corners, one came from some good work from Kewell to win the ball, wide to Chipperfield and the cross found Viduka who tried to head a lob over David James who tipped it over the bar. Another time a series of one-two passes gave Viduka a chance to return the favour and Chipperfield had his slide to the ball interrupted by Neville. England too had good chances to Scholes and Owen, tellingly those came not from crosses but from direct attempts from in front.
Stan Lazaridis was booked for a foul on Beckham.
There was the usual to and fro for a while and then very suddenly Kewell was through on goal. Lampard had the ball taken off him and immediately the ball was sent towards the English end. Ferdinand and Kewell jostled for the ball but Kewell won out and Ferdinand was watching from his seat on the penalty box. Kewell jinked back to get past David James and sidefooted the ball into the net with his right foot. Australia 2-0. I'd toyed with some money on a 0-5 scoreline at $141...I'm starting to wish I'd taken it.
At halftime England manager Eriksson made good on his promise to put a new set of players on the pitch with 11 substitutions. Australia made one. The problem here was that the English side had to play themselves in again. That said they started with a bang both Vassell and Rooney causing some problems.
Just to liven up proceedings a streaker entertained the crowd not long after Kewell was substituted out for Aloisi.
Of the English in the second half most of the good work was done by Hargreaves with some decent contributions but the whole deal seemed very disjointed and what flow the English enjoyed in the first half seemed gone. Of course that in itself is hard to deal with and it was a well aimed cross from Jermaine Jenas towards the near post which was met by Jeffers and glanced beyond the outstretched hand of Schwarzer for a well worked goal. From the sound of the crowd reaction they'd have taken a complete dog of a goal just as gladly.
Australia started to wind down a bit and made a few substitutions, the match seemed to be coming to the stage where sides ask each other the question about whether they're happy to settle it and play it out. I should know better from an Australia v England contest.
Aloisi got the ball and had King in close attendance. Unable to shake his marker Aloisi threaded the ball through to Emerton coming down the middle and with the keeper to beat Emerton put the ball through Robinsons legs into the net.
That pretty much was the end of the game, the last actual kick by Emerton taking a free kick at goal comfotably saved by Robinson.
The merits of this win can be debated but it enters the record books as a 3-1 result to Australia and it's all Australia could have done. Beat the team which turned up on the day. At best England can claim a draw for their second half team.
I guess all we have left now is Darts...[since this text was posted I've had 2 e-mails telling me the current World Darts Champion is, infact, Australian. I guess the sentiment remains, even if the expression is lacking]