Most significant thing about this game was Milan Ivanovic's farewell on the international scene. He was made captain to mark the occasion but also this match inaugurated the new stands at Hindmarsh Stadium which were built with the 2000 Olympics in mind. It could also be Terry Venables last game in charge, certainly this is the last scheduled game before his contract expires when the World Cup concludes. Negotiations continue to retain his services in some form.
Australia almost had a dream start when John Markovski was put through on goal by a slightly offside looking pass. However the flag stayed down and with only the keeper to beat Markovski disappointingly played it well into his reach. Then the Japanese had their chance when a long shot was deflected and only just dipped over the crossbar, although Kalac had the ball well covered.
From the resulting corner the Japanese forward Jo managed to get a clean header at goal which went hip height at DeAmicis who was guarding the near post. Sadly for DeAmicis the ball was slightly to his left and as he reached out with his upper arm to stop the ball he made sure that he was sent off and Nakata had no trouble sending Kalac the wrong way and scored from the spot with a surprisingly softly struck shot.
Trajanovski tried to even things out a little by putting his studs into Nanamis leg which made him get some attention after 20 or so minutes of play. Generally though Australia seemed happy to try to find some sort of rhythm with a man down and Japan were quite happy to hold the lead they had and pick their moments to try to increase it.
Of all the players Australia are purportedly trying out to deepen their talent pool Troy Halpin certainly has made his mark. While his defence-splitting passes weren't quite as splitting as he might hope he did show enough to suggest he is worthy of further games, Emerton too displayed moments of brilliance but perhaps lacked the sort of consistency which is required of a regular international.
After 27 minutes Australia came close to equalising when Tapai intercepted a harmless Japanese throw-in in midfield. He passed to the centrally positioned Markovski who in turn passed to Emerton on the right flank. Emerton put a good cross in aimed at Markovski and Saad and it was the latter player who evaded 4 defenders to get his head to the ball ahead of the keeper who was rushing out for the intercept. Sadly for Australia the ball went just wide of the far post and the scoreline remained unchanged.
Generally Australia and Japan seemed to be fairly evenly matched which suggests, as I said, that Japan were taking it on the break and Australia trying hard to redress the imbalance on the scoresheet, possibly setting themselves up to bugger themselves out well before fulltime.
Just before the break Japan pushed hard at goal with a shot to the far post almost sneaking in, Tobin almost finishing the job for Japan. Then the resulting corner was only barely scrambled away and barely a minute later a Jo header was clawed over the crossbar by Kalac. Frenetic stuff...
After the restart Japan had a couple of half decent chances, Yanagisawa had a shot just shave the outside of the far post to make the best Japanese chance in those opening 5 minutes of the second half. Nakata also made sure Kalac was paying attention and Australia was feeling the pinch, spending the majority of this time in their own half.
Australia managed to get a free kick near the corner flag when a foul on Mendez was committed by Japan. Horvat was there at the far post but by the time he controlled the ball he had overrun it and a defender quickly swept the ball upfield.
On the hour Australia again threatened to equalise with Tapai setting up Trajanovski for a shot on goal which the Japanese keeper failed to hold and with Emerton charging in to put the ball into the net the keeper recovered the ball just in time.
The second half also saw the rain fall which made conditions slippery, this might have explained the second Japanese goal which was made by the two substitutes. Lopes managed to get his shot around Horvat and Kalac dived to his left but could only palm the ball away where Hirano was handily positioned to to tap the ball in for Japan's second goal, virtually sealing the game.
Thus it was a bit much when Nakata played the ball across the park where Hirano was screaming down an undefended flank and took his shot on the run towards Kalac's near post. The ball just kissed the inside edge of that post before going into the net. Japan were getting the hang of this now.
A Halpin push in the back of a Japanese forward afforded Lopes a chance to take the ball in the free kick and his shot went under the wall but was gratefully held by Kalac. Australia were not enjoying this at all and perhaps it was a bit hard on them to be 3 down but then again they had been trying hard to equalise earlier in the game and perhaps the tiring players began to pay the price.
The even up red card did come when Yamaguchi was given his second yellow card after becoming entangled with Kris Trajanovski. Yamaguchi didn't seem to have any complaints about the decision but when you're 3-0 up you might even be happy to see the taxman. In any case it meant he got out of the driving rain and first use of the hot water in the showers.
Late in the game Lozanovski came on for Tapai and almost immediately went down with an injury to his leg after trying to win a loose ball. It was just one of those nights....
Saad put Trajanovski down the flank in the 87th minute and the cross came in towards trimboli but somehow one of the two backtracking defenders managed to kick the ball onto his own arm. The Aussies appealed for the penalty but didn't get it, nor did they get the corner which was the least they should have got. Oh well, when things don't go your way it seems the world is against you.
One hopes that Australia can play a few more internationals against quality opposition, I've always wondered why the Euroroos don't get midweek games against other European sides to avoid the nasty problems with travel and releases from clubs. Oh well, Australia chalk up a loss and lose one of their finest players to retirement but perhaps greater things are in the offing. It is better to live for the future than to rot in the past, and all the pundits who say that Australia should be at the World Cup and are frantically apportioning blame and looking to use the failure to further their own agendas really are doing us all an injustice.