Just as they did in 2005, Australia are battling hard against stiff South American opposition and into extra time.
The winner will get one of the final two spots in the FIFA World Cup, which begins in November, while the loser in eliminated.
Despite going into their sudden death qualifier against Peru as underdogs, Australia were the better side through 90 minutes, with their opponents failing to muster a single shot on target.
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Australia edged a first half that was devoid of any clear-cut chances, with Scottish-born winger Martin Boyle the only player on either side who looked dangerous in possession.
The only real talking point of the first half came as Boyle wormed his way into the penalty area, only for a crunching tackle from Christofer Gonzales knocking the ball loose – although the Peruvian looked to slide in out of control with his studs raised.
Peru were a bit better after the interval, but still offered little.
The main appeal of knockout football is that everything is at stake. The drawback is that when both teams know this, you’re often left with two sides that are playing to not lose, rather than to win.
This cagey affair demonstrated that perfectly – a long-range free kick from Ajden Hrustic after 80 minutes was the first shot that either team had on target. It was easily saved by the goalkeeper, Pedro Gallese.
It did spur Australia into life, first Awer Mabil sending a dangerous cross into the area, then Aziz Behich flashing a shot wide from 20 yards.
Mabil’s injection into the match gave them some sorely needed thrust down the left and it was his cutback that Hrustic latched on to from the edge of the box, deflecting off Jamie Maclaren and only just saved by a diving Gallese.
The drama wasn’t finished yet – it looked like Jackson Irvine was pushed over in the penalty area in stoppage time, only for both the on-field referee and VAR to brush it off.
Into extra time the game went – where a tired looking Australia hung on for dear life.
Peru had their first shot on target after 98 minutes, which was easily saved by Ryan, but the biggest chance of the match came in the second period of extra time.
On the 107 minute mark, Edison Flores’ header struck the post, and the follow up was spooned over the bar – the Socceroos somehow escaping for the time being.
More to come
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