Australia 2 - Paraguay 1

Socceroo coach Frank Farina notched up his first win on home soil in Australia's 2-1 defeat of Paraguay in the final game of the three-match series at Olympic Park in Melbourne on Thursday night.

After two and a half games in the series without a goal, three were scored in a nine-minute flurry early in the second half, bursting the match into life.

Craig Foster's left-foot volley two minutes after the break ended the scoring drought that had afflicted this series, and six minutes later David Zdrilic extended Australia's lead with a shot on the turn from the edge of the area. But before the Socceroos could consolidate, Miguel Caceres took advantage of an error of judgement from goalkeeper Zejlko Kalac to bring Paraguay back into the contest.

And in a match where the Paraguayans practised their histrionics as much as their football, Jose Luis Chilavert - their charismatic goalkeeper and captain - tested referee Gerry Connolly's patience once too often, and received his second yellow card of the game in added time, ending his participation in the game. It wasn't the end of his involvement in the action, as he declined to leave the field for several minutes, exchanging angry words and insulting gestures with the Australian players during this period.

Although Paraguay might well have engineered the dismissal to give the Asuncion supporters some comfort that the defeat had been as a consequence of Paraguay being one short, the dismissal occurred well after the game was safely won for Australia.

Foster's goal was the catalyst for the game opening up, goading Paraguay into action, and resulted in the South Americans' best moments. Perhaps it was that Paraguay intended to practise the possible away leg tactics in any World Cup elimination meeting between these two nations, but they scarcely showed the attacking flair that had taken them to the second stage of the last World Cup. In fact, they seemed at least as much interested in gamesmanship than in the game for most of the match.

Few Paraguayans can look back at their contribution in this game with any joy.

The best scoring opportunities in the first half had all been Australia's, and all been squandered, none more so than Paul Okon's 40th minute penalty blasted high over Chilavert's bar in a captain versus captain face-off.

The penalty award came after Danny Tiatto had been hauled down in the box by Roland Gaona after he had already skipped one high tackle when making his threatening progress to goal.

The world-wise Paraguayans then manufactured a delay before Okon could take the kick, by engaging in a pushing duel at the edge of the penalty-area which required the intervention of referee Connolly to settle things down again.

Unsurprisingly, Chilavert was one of those to become embroiled in the exchanges, and cheekily patted Okon on the head as he made his back to his goal-line, saying something to Okon as he went by.

Speaking about the incident after the game at the post-match media conference, Okon said, "He said something to me in English, but I didn't understand what he said."

"I decided where I wanted to place it, but then there was (the) altercation, (and on his return to the goal) I saw Chilavert was standing a little bit closer to the right hand side, so as I was running onto the ball I changed my mind. That's probably a golden rule not to do, but I made the mistake and paid the price."

The price was not so costly for Australia in the end as a consequence of the Foster goal shortly after the re-start. Paul Agostino and David Zdrilic had exchanged possession, taking turns to control a juggling ball before Foster had time to shoot the ball past Chilavert's left for the opener.

Six minutes later, Okon played a ball to Kevin Muscat, whose pass up the line found Brett Emerton wide on the right. Emerton played a square ball to Zdrilic whose shot on the turn from the edge of the penalty-area sped past Chilavert.

What should have been a comfortable run home for Australia was changed into one more fraught as a result of a spectacular misjudgment by Kalac. The giant goalkeeper had been resolute throughout the entire game but for this single moment, and found himself flapping at air as he failed to intercept a ball well outside his area, leaving a gaping goal for Miguel Caceres.

"The big dopey bugger shouldn't have been out there", said Farina to laughter after the game. "That one we'll deal with later."

Rather than press for an equaliser, the Paraguayans continued to fall at the merest touch, and foul with abandon for the rest of the game, on most occasions involving the intervention of Chilavert, leading inevitably to his overdue red-carding a minute from the final whistle.

written by Alan Clark