Doha: Australia and South Korea shared the spoils 1-1 in the battle of the big guns at the Asian Cup on Friday as both sides inched closer to the quarter-finals.
The two Asian heavyweights are both seen as potential champions but neither could find the winner at the three-quarters full Al-Gharafa Stadium.
Exciting 21-year-old Koo Ja-Cheol, who has attracted interest from overseas clubs, got the breakthrough for the Koreans on 24 minutes, striking his third goal of the competition.
But a second-half equaliser from Mile Jedinak ensured a draw, leaving both teams on four points from two games.
The Koreans are best-placed to make the last eight with only minnows India standing in their way while the Socceroos face a tricky encounter with Bahrain on Tuesday.
Socceroos coach Holger Osieck said it was a quality game and he was happy with the result.
“I think we have seen a very high standard from both teams who have great potential. They displayed it time and again. At times it was end-to-end stuff,” said the German.
“My team, I’m very happy with their performance. Our game plan was to close them down in midfield and that was mostly achieved.”
“What I found encouraging was we created a lot of chances.”
In contrast, his Korean counterpart Cho Kwang-Rae considered it two points lost.
“We could have won the game. If you look at the general performance of our team, then we should have won,” he said.
“We controlled the game mostly so in that aspect we have improved a lot. I am pleased about that and if we can continue to develop that part of our game then it will be much better for us as we move forward.”
Manchester United’s Park Ji-Sung had the first sight of goal on two minutes after intercepting a poor pass from Lucas Neill, but scuffed his shot and Fulham’s Mark Schwarzer collected comfortably.
The Koreans saw most of the early ball but Australia had a great chance in the 7th minute when Harry Kewell somehow hooked a shot over the bar from six yards out.
Everton talisman Tim Cahill had a decent penalty appeal turned down soon after when Cha Du-Ri appeared to use his arm to pull him down, but Qatari referee Abdulrahman Abdou was not impressed.
Neither side was really finding their rhythm but Korea created more chances and got the breakthrough with the Australian defence asleep.
Ji Dong-Won picked up a long ball through the middle and fed it to Koo, who made no mistake with a low right-foot shot.
But it wasn’t all one-way traffic and Kewell almost levelled the game with a powerful 30-yard freekick that shaved the bar.
Australia started to find their feet and Kewell should have equalised seven minutes before half-time, but he took too long to get his shot away from the edge of the penalty area and it fizzed wide.
Cahill had an even better chance a minute later with just the goalkeeper to beat, but like Kewell he took too long and Glasgow Celtic man Cha charged in to make a vital tackle.
The agile Park was proving a handful and was at the centre of much of the Korean action as they came out after the break in attacking mode and he forced a fine save from Schwarzer on 60 minutes.
But the Socceroos got back in it against the run of play.
Neill looped a high ball into the box and keeper Jung Sung-Ryong came but he was beaten to it by Jedinak, whose header found the back of the net.
Both sides had plenty of opportunities to settle the game with Schwarzer pulling off a fine one-handed save from Ki Sung-Yueng four minutes from time to prevent a Korean victory.