Asian Cup: Spirited India lose 0-4 to Australia

Doha: Minnows India gave a spirited fight but found the Australian too hot to handle as they lost 0-4 to their formidable opponents in their opening match of the Asian Cup football tournament here on Monday.

Australia, who have nine players from the 2010 World Cup squad in today`s starting line-up, controlled most part of the match with their speed and aerial superiority and the Indian goal was under constant threat throughout in the Group C opening match at Al Saad Stadium.

To the credit of the Indians, who had to play without talismanic skipper Bhaichung Bhutia due to a calf injury, the match did not turn out to be mauling by their opponents, who are ranked highest at 26th in FIFA charts.

Star Australia forward Tim Cahill, who plays for English Premier League side Everton, scored twice (11th and 65th) while Turkish top side Galatasaray midfielder Harry Kewell and Brett Holman found the target once in the 25th and 45+2 minutes.

Playing in the continent`s biggest stage after a gap of 27 years, India, the lowest ranked side at 142nd, expectedly found the going tough against their formidable rivals and title contenders who have come here with players based mostly in European top flight leagues.

Australia`s German coach Holger Osieck fielded his strongest side and his players raided the Indian goal umpteen times and did not have much trouble to run away with a thumping victory.

India were cheered by a near-capacity crowd at the 13,500-capacity Stadium, mostly made up of expatriates from the sub-continent but the support did not have much impact on the result as the gap in class between the two teams was too much.

India barely could manage to string in threatening moves with Sunil Chhetri and Mohammed Rafi failing to find a decent shot at opposition goal. Australian goal-keeper Mark Schwarzer, who plays for EPL side Fulham, was rarely tested.

Chhetri and his strike partner Mohammed Rafi were kept at bay by the Australian defence led by captain and Galatasaray center-back Lucas Neill and towering AFC Player of the Year Sasa Ognenovski, who captained South Korean side Seongnam to AFC Champions League title.

The Indian defence of Gouramanagi Singh, Anwar, Surkumar Singh and Deepak Mondal played their best but found too hot to handle the Australian forwards who play in top leagues in Europe.

Indian goalkeeper Subrata Paul as usual had a brilliant match but could not stop the Australians from scoring four goals.

He dived high on his right to deny Australian left winger Brett Holman a shot as early as the 10th minute. But next minute, he could not stop Cahill from blasting the ball inside the net after Deepak Mondal let in Brett Emerton at the right

India coach Bob Houghton was though livid and he was seen protesting to match officials apparently telling them that Australia had scored from an off-side position.

India`s first attempt came in the 14th minute but N P Pradeep`s feeble shot did not trouble Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.

Captain Climax Lawrence got a chance in the 17th minute, the best in India, but he shot over from the top left edge of the box.

The Indian goal was under threat again in the 24th minute and a Kewell left footer hit Paul and the ball went out inches from the post.

Next minute, the Indian defence was left clueless with Kewell firing a thundering left footer from well outside the box which flew like a bullet past a diving India keeper into the net.

The Indian defense was also exposed once again in the added time of the first half with Brett Holman jumping over them to head home to give his side a 3-0 lead.

In the second half also, it was Australia all over with India defending their citadel before letting in a goal in the 65th minute through Cahill.

India coach Bob Houghton brought in Meharajuddin Wadoo, Abhishek Yadav and Renedy Singh in place of N P Pradeep (61st), Mohammed Rafi (64th) and Steven Dias (79th) but his charges could not create the goal-scoring chances.

Brett Emerton was in the thick of things several times and he hit wide from close range twice -- in 54th and 57th minutes. Cahill then headed home off a free-kick from the right by Luke Wilkshire to make 4-0.

India got two shots in the second half. In the first Syed Rahim Nabi shot wide from inside the box in the 66th minute.

Five minutes from the final whistle, Chhetri found himself just ahead of Australian center back Ognenovski in front of goal but the Australian caught up and the Indian striker could not make a free shot.

India play their second match against Bahrain on January 14.

India: Subrata Paul, Gouramangi Singh, Anwar, Surkumar Singh, Deepak Mondal, Climax Lawrence (captain), N P Pradeep (Mehrajuddin Wadoo 61st), Steven Dias 9Renedy Singh 79th), Syed Rahim Nabi, Mohammed Rafi (Abhishek Yadav 64th), Sunil Chhetri.

Australia: Mark Schwarzer, Lucas Neill (captain), David carney, Sasa Ognenovski, Luke Wilkshire, Jason Culina, Brett Emerton, Harry Kewell (Scott McDonald), Brett Holman, Mike Jedinak (Matt McKay 62nd), Tim Cahill.



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