Australia lifted the Asian Cup for the first time in thrilling fashion as substitute James Troisi scored the winning goal to settle a pulsating final and spark wild celebrations among jubilant host nation supporters.
The Socceroos had earlier led through Massimo Luongo’s superb strike on the stroke of half-time, and were just seconds away from victory when Heung-Min Son scored a heart-breaking last-gasp equaliser to force an additional 30 minutes.
The tide appeared to have turned against Ange Postecoglou’s men, but 26-year-old Troisi’s close-range finish mid-way through extra time secured the battling Aussies their first-ever major international trophy in front of a sell-out crowd of 76,385 at Stadium Australia.
“You try to take it in but it’s a little bit surreal still,” said skipper Mile Jedinak, talking to Fox Sports. “It’s a moment that I think we’ll treasure for the rest of our lives – to do it here in front of all our family and friends. This one goes out to them.”
Australia – competing in only their third Asian Cup – were looking to make amends for their 1-0 extra-time defeat by Japan in the final four years ago. Meanwhile two-time winners South Korea were seeking to break a 55-year hoodoo by regaining the title for the first time since 1960.
South Korea had not conceded a single goal in their five games leading up to the final, and had already beaten Australia 1-0 in a largely meaningless final group match after both teams had already qualified for the knock-out stages.
The Koreans dominated for much of the first half during Saturday night’s final. But Australia took the lead against the run of play when Sydney-born midfielder Massimo Luongo – who plays his club football in England with Swindon – turned brilliantly on to Trent Sainsbury’s through ball before crashing home a low drive from 25 yards.
Australia defended their lead valiantly after the break, only to concede a dramatic equaliser two minutes into stoppage time when Son stroked the ball home after Sainsbury had been dispossessed on the edge of the penalty area.
The pattern of goals being scored just before a scheduled break in play continued as Adelaide-born Troisi – who plays for Belgian club Zulte Waregem – struck the winner in the 115th minute, just before the two teams swapped ends in extra time. Tomi Juric did superbly to nutmeg Kim Jin-su on the edge of the box, and goalkeeper Kim Jin-hyeon was only able to push the striker’s low cross into the path of Troisi, who gleefully smashed the ball into the roof of the net to create Australian football history.