Australia 7 - Solomon Islands 0


Australia has won the 1st leg of the OFC World Cup qualifier 7-0 at Aussie Stadium (SFS) Sydney in front of 14,715 fans on a damp evening. The Socceroos took 20 minutes to break down an initially well marshalled defence but two more before the break and a send off of Nelson Sale for the Solomons in the 53rd minute killed off the game. A brace to new captain Mark Viduka surprisingly increased his rate to 5 from 'A' international 29 games (from 3 in 28).

On Tuesday 12 October 2004 in the same stadium Australia won the second leg of the OFC Nations Cup final 6-0 at Aussie Stadium (SFS) Sydney in front of 19,208 fans on a balmy Spring evening, with Harry Kewell a rare star attraction. Australia qualified from that game for the Confederations Cup in Germany, which was held from 15-29 June this year, as Oceania's representative. It was that tournament that showed Australia's attacking power but defensive frailties, and ended with Socceroos six year coach Frank Farina being replaced with Dutchman Guus Hiddink. The Solomons also came with a new coach, Ayrton Andrioli, appointed like Hiddink only weeks ago.

Australia was without Harry Kewell, who had that cameo role 11 months ago, and Captain Craig Moore, out injured - with Hiddink handing the armband to Mark Viduka. The Solomon Islands team was largely that which met the Aussies last year, having had no international games since to try anyone else and only a few games in NZ in preparation.

Attacking, controlled, aggressive football - that was the Guus Hiddink promise - did we get it?

Australia applied pressure, as Guus Hiddink had promised, right from the beginning but the Solomon's looked to have steadied their defence since last year but were more timid this outing in breaking out into attack.

The first real chance came in the 9th minute when John Aloisi hit a strike from the edge of the area after Mark Viduka had laid it back to him, but the shot cannoned off a defender.

In the 17th minute a great chance was cleared off the line by one of the Solomon Islands best players Leslie Leo, but after some faint hope came to the Solomons when two minutes later they got the ball to the other goal line for the first time, it was dashed.

Aloisi laid back a ball to Jason Culina, who was pushing up from midfield, in the 20th minute and the Dutch based midfielder slammed the ball past 'keeper Francis Arawafu from 15m. 1-0

After Viduka, Aloisi, and Cahill had all wasted chances crafted against the packed defensive line, the next goal came when in the 36th minute Cahill managed to get the ball under pressure to an unmarked Viduka, standing back to goal, and an acrobatic overhead kick went into the top right corner of the net. 2-0

Goal three was scored just before half-time when Josip Skoko angled an early cross superbly from the right, sailing straight to Viduka whose power header nestled in the top right corner of the net. 3-0

After the break there was little joy all the rest of the night for the visitors - starting with Nelson Sale getting a straight red card for scything down Jason Culina - the Solomons went down to 10 men, and the mountain turned into Everest!

In the 56th minute the Australians sealed a win with the fourth goal that came from a soft Cahill header that fell short but bounced high and can be attested to the 'keeper not holding, and dropping, the ball into his own net. 4-0

Substitute Marco Bresciano almost scored when his stinging ground shot in the damp conditions almost snuck under the hands of Aruwafu on the goal-line.

After Archie Thompson had headed just wide with his first touch of the ball, Scott Chipperfield tried it on when he smashed a ground shot that skidded right under the diving Solomon Islands 'keeper from 30m out on the left side where he had taken up a more withdrawn role. 5-0

Viduka thought he had a hat-trick in the 65th when his header after a rebound off the upright was disallowed for him having been in an off-side position.

Archie Thompson was looking very sharp and it was proper when he netted in the 68th minute, scoring a suberb goal from an acute angle past the keeper and into the inside of the net on the left side, having controlled a bouncing ball and swivelling to make space wide. 6-0

The floodgates were straining as Thompson was over the crossbar and Bresciano was wide.

The Solomons rallied but were given the last humiliation when Brett Emerton knocked in a fierce speculator from 25m out on the right that the keeper should have but did not hold. 7-0

The winner of this home-and away series will earn the right to face the fifth-placed South American nation in November for the final place at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. Certainly Australia fly out to the South Pacific islands with a fine buffer.

After the game Hiddink was relaxed, as he would be, and asked about the ease of the game within his experience, he said That was expected, but of course we are happy to win every game. What is important is I like to see some things that we have practised for the big games coming up ... to see that in the game".

We said we would full press from the start, which we did and then we have to have a little bit of luck when the area is too crowded", said Hiddink. I think we did well to not let them play and there were quality goals, he added.

He will take the full squad to the challenging environment of the troubled country's capital on a charter flight on Monday morning, but it is hard to see much risk if he experiments at the Lawson Tama Stadium on Tuesday. The game is at 1pm local time (or 12 midday AET).

Hiddink stressed more in the media conference the usefulness of the upcoming friendly game against Jamaica in settling his future choices that this Oceania World Cup game. A sign that the move by Australia to the Asian Confederation in January 2006 is long overdue.

written by Chris Dunkerley