Not even the presence of Australia’s Europe-based contingent could stop Kuwait from avenging last month’s defeat in Sydney as Mihai Stoichita’s team downed the Socceroos 2-0 in AFC Asian Cup qualifying on Wednesday evening.
Two goals in three second-half minutes from Khalaf Al Mutairi and Bader Al Mutwaa earned the hosts their first win of the qualifying campaign and put them in with a chance of progressing to the finals next year in South East Asia.
Held in hot and humid conditions, the first chance of the game fell to the Kuwaitis as Al Mutwaa made his way past several Australian defenders in the 14th minute before shooting straight at goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.
Four minutes later, Michael Beauchamp should have headed home the opener but his effort flew just inches away from Nawaf Al Khaldi’s goal.
In the 21st minute, Al Mutwaa broke through the Australian defence before passing the ball to Al Mutairi, whose powerful shot was blocked by Schwarzer.
John Aloisi, who finished the game with four stitches in his face, should have given the Australians the lead in the 30th minute when he received the ball inside the penalty area, but he blasted the ball off target to keep the game scoreless.
Kuwait goalkeeper Al Khaldi had his hands full in the final minutes of the first half as he blocked a powerful drive from Mile Sterjovski from the edge of the area in the 32nd minute.
However, the most notable chance in the first half came three minutes before the break when Ryan Griffiths, who has just came in the place of the injured Ahmed Elrich, saw his shot hit the woodwork.
Kuwait went into the second half looking for victory and they took advantage as the heat took its toll on Australia and Khalaf Al Mutairi made it 1-0 in the 56th minute.
Nawaf Al Mutairi made his way into the Australian defence before sending an accurate cross to Khalaf Al Mutairi, who won his encounter with Schwarzer to head home the opening goal.
Three minutes later, Kuwait secured the victory when Al Mutwaa edged several defenders before shooting from the edge of the area to make the score 2-0.
Australia tried to come back and the nearly pulled a goal back in the 75th minute when Scot Macdonald saw his powerful shot from inside the penalty area saved by Kuwait goalkeeper Nawaf Al Khaldi.
Australia coach Graham Arnold:
"I told you before the match that it's going to be a tough game. We are very disappointed because we had chances in the first half to kill the game off and it's really disappointing that we couldn't do that.
"We definitely had the better chances to win the game in the first half and it would have been a totally different game if we had scored. We knew the longer the game is going we'll be more tired because of the heat factor. That's why we were hoping to score in the first half and kill the game.
"We were not used to such weather in this part of the world. The heat and humid took its toll on our players as we are not used to 40 degrees and the players struggled in the heat.
"We have to give credit to Kuwait as they completely rose to the occasion tonight. They were really up for the game, disciplined and organized. At the end of the day they had better performance.
"The disappointing thing in the game was the two goals that we conceded. For the first goal we didn't track back and the second goal was simply a wonderful goal."
Australia striker John Aloisi:
"We had a good game tonight as we created a lot of chances. However, Kuwait were very good technically and when they took the lead in the second half they controlled the game.
"Kuwait are used to the conditions more than us as we haven't played in such hot conditions like this. I'm not making any excuses but we didn't realize that it was going to be hot like this.
"We never thought that it was going to be easy but you can't just come two days before the match in order to get accustomed to such weather. You should prepare very well under such conditions."
Kuwait coach Mihai Stoichita:
"I told the players before the game that I'm proud of them. I told them that they are a good team and that they should behave like professionals. All the team today was great and all the players should get the credit.
"To beat a big team like Australia who played in the World Cup and are ranked as the top team in Asia is something great. I believe it's a step towards better football in Kuwait.
"I'm proud of the players and I congratulate them with this great victory as they played very well tonight.
Kuwait striker Bader Al Mutwa:
"It was a good game and we successfully won the three points at home. In Sydney we played in a defensive way and we could have got a draw. We made some mistakes in the previous match but today we fixed them and won.
"Our players had a good game and we defeated Australia with their European based players. We still have our last game in the group against Bahrain and it will be a winner-takes-all match."