This match just snuck up on me, it must be the expectation that Australia rarely play and now there's 2 matches in a few weeks. The World Cup is yonks away :-)
The turn out was poor but the match began in what is commonly referred to as enterprising fashion. Both sides seemed keen to go for goal and while the initial minutes favoured the Jamaican run of play as the play settled down Australia found some rhythm of their own and strung together good periods of possession and even managed some shots at goal.
It was easy to see that either side could score at any moment so after 20 or so minutes we had a score of 1-1.
Kewell found himself with some space from deflection in a bit of a clearance scramble in the Jamaican penalty area and blasted a shot at goal from in front and outside the box which was deflected away (off the shoulder of the man marking Viduka) to Bresciano who volleyed the ball towards the far post. The keeper did well to reposition himself so quickly and even got a piece of the ball as he dived for the save, but the ball bounded into the net via the far post for the opening goal of the game.
Minutes, nay seconds later Ricardo Fuller took a big run into the Australian half and took the ball to the goalline. He took a shot which Schwarzer fended off but only into the path of Lisbee who hooked it past some defenders hurrying back and into the net to restore the balance in the scoreline.
Soon after the yellow card was produced, to Laybutt, so you know the game had started in earnest.
Interesting too that before the goals Bresciano took a free kick and shot at goal. Once he scored during open play and the next opportunity for a free kick came along Kewell and Viduka combined. They got a corner so they did better than Marco, whose shot ballooned over the bar, but it would be nice to see a designated free kicker... as long as he was any good.
The half progressed and the level of enterprise remained at an unabated high and pleasing, for me at least, was that Australia created a number of chances and plausible ones too (not the kind that require the goalkeeper to instantaneously lose threequarters of his limbs and the ball to be hit by a passing pigeon to put it on target). Jamaica too had more than one opportunity to score too, but the official shot count was 10-4 going in to halftime.
Then a funny thing happened I started thinking that Jamaica played in a way that Australia did in the late 80's and early 90's. Not the same, but similar. They were enthusiastic, full of running and presented a physical presence. Again, I'm not accusing Jamaica of being rough, the only yellow of the first half was to Australia, but the point is that in those days I looked at the side and thought how much more productive Australia could be by playing smarter. I really believe they are playing smarter now.
Of course back in those days we beat Argentina and Yugoslavia, so it's not a bad way to go by any stretch but all we want is a trip to the World Cup (OK once we're there we'll want a second round place, and then all bets are off) and despite FIFA's pledges it seems clear we're going to play a South American side for the ticket to go. We have the game, and we have the players, what we need now is the team development and match hardening. Ah it's fun being an armchair coach, and it's free.
The only thing which changed at halftime was some of the players, the match progressed in pretty much the same fashion before it paused. Some more desperate defending from Australia, some more soths at goal at the other end. Whoever was going to win it would have had to do somethimg to deserve it.
Turns out that on the hour a good incursion from Jamaica was eventually defused and the ball found its way to the feet of Okon, who in turn sends it over halfway in the direction of Harry Kewell in full flight, three defenders running in his wake. The goal keeper advanced and Harry left footed Australia into the lead. It was elegant, clean and done with such confidence that it was hard to believe the same side was responsible for s string of misses. I guess this is what we need to iron out for the World Cup campaign, missing this many chances means another long period in the wilderness.
Jamaica did manage to even up the score in the 73rd minute, but it was only the score of yellow cards when Ricardo Gardener caught Lucas Neill on the ankle.
It really started becoming the Kewell and Viduka show with notable contributions from all over the park towards the end of the game. The 2-2 would not have been inconceivable, but neither would a 3-1, or a 4-1. What Jamaica added in terms of fresh legs in the second half they also lost in cohesion, in stark contrast with Ireland where their use of substitutes seemed to enhance their resolve and ability, with great effect. Farina on the other hand made very little use of substitutes, in any of the 3 games so far this year and that seems to have some benefits.
At the end the shot count was in the vicinity of 21-6 and while not all of the shots were on target there were enough to make me seriously consider Donovan Ricketts as man of the match, in the end I'd pick Harry though.
Good match, great result. Well done boys.