The Socceroos booked their passage into the Sydney final as first-half goals by defenders Trent Sainsbury and Jason Davidson sealed a 2-0 victory over the United Arab Emirates in today’s semi-final in Newcastle.
The UAE had pulled off the shock of the tournament when they defeated defending champions Japan 5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the quarter-finals.
But the underdogs could not repeat their giant-killing feats as the Aussies moved into a commanding early lead in front of 21,079 spectators. Central defender Sainsbury headed home a corner from skipper Mile Jedinak to put the host nation ahead after just three minutes, and West Bromwich Albion left-back Davidson doubled the Aussies’ lead after 14 minutes when he side-footed home his first international goal.
“It feels unbelievable, especially to do it on home soil,” Davidson told ABC. “A great turn-out tonight and we are happy we got a clean sheet into the final.”
Australia lost 1-0 when they met South Korea earlier in the tournament, and Saturday’s final gives the Socceroos a chance to avenge that defeat in what was a largely meaningless third and final match of the initial group stages.
But to win the trophy Australia must somehow find a way to break down South Korea’s miserly defence, which has yet to concede a goal in five games. The two-time champions – seeking to break a 55-year hoodoo by regaining the crown for the first time since 1960 – enjoyed slender 1-0 victories over Oman, Kuwait and the Aussies in the group phase, before beating Uzbekistan 2-0 after extra time in the quarter-finals, and Iraq 2-0 at the semi-final stage.
The Aussies, competing in only their third Asian Cup, were beaten 1-0 by Japan after extra time in the final four years ago. They will be desperately hoping to go one step further this time round.