Socceroos stroll to India win

Tim Cahil scores two as Australia restricted to 4-0 win over India who make their first Asian Cup apearance in 27 years.

    Kewell, centre, hit the second of his side's four goals as Australia strolled to victory without impressing [GALLO/GETTY]

    India looked likely to take nothing but hard lessons away from their first Asian Cup in 27 years but restricted Australia to a 4-0 win in their Group C opener at the continental championships in Qatar.

    Australia, ranked 116 places above the Indians, took a 3-0 lead into half time at the Al Sadd stadium in Doha before Everton forward Tim Cahill added his second of the match after the break.

    No stadium air conditioning was needed on a slightly chilly evening but the Socceroos endured some heat from the crowd in the brief period before their superiority told.

    India, who reached Qatar 2011 outside the normal qualifying process as an 'emerging' team by winning the AFC Challenge Cup in 2008, had their early touches met with roars by what was essentially a home support.

    Qatar's population is about 18 per cent Indian but the cheers from the stands, accompanied by frenzied flag-waving, were dulled when Cahill slotted home from Brett Emerton's pullback after 11 minutes.

    Former Leeds United and Liverpool playmaker Harry Kewell drilled the second goal quarter of an hour later, having all the time he needed to execute a perfectly-struck left-footed drive into the far bottom corner from 25 yards.

    Many of the India fans were wearing blue cricket shirts and they probably wished they were somewhere watching Sachin Tendulkar slay an opposition attack when Emerton crossed for Brett Holman to nod the third in first-half injury time.


    A sluggish second half was brought to life when Cahill rose above the defence to head in Luke Wilkshire's free kick on 65 minutes before India got a foothold, attacking on the break to almost score their first Asian Cup goal since 1964.

    Asian Cup 2011

    Group A - China, Kuwait, Qatar, Uzbekistan

    Group B - Japan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria

    Group C - Australia, Bahrain, India, South Korea

    Group D - North Korea, Iran, Iraq, UAE

    But when the chance came, Sunil Chhetri's run down the middle was impeded enough by defender Sasa Ognenovski to enable Australia keeper Mark Schwarzer to save at the forward's feet.

    Kewell said afterwards that it had been a job well done by his team, who had to wait for South Korea's 2-1 win over Bahrain later to top the group on goal difference.

    "I think everyone knows that a team like India is a potential banana skin, but we set out from the get-go what we were determined to do," the Galatasaray player said.

    "We know that there's tougher games later but now we're going to relax and enjoy the result and know we got a good start."

    India talisman Bhaichung Bhutia, the 'Indian David Beckham', was out of the side due to injury but the first half saw some attacking promise, with N P Pradeep letting fly with a hopeful long range volley before Climax Lawrence had a pop that flew over the bar.

    As Australia pressed their advantage in the second half, Syed Rahim Nabi's 61st-minute break downfield had the beating of Jason Culina but the India forward shot well wide after cutting in from the flank.

    A minute after Australia's fourth, another run from Nabi unleashed Steven Dias into space on the right of the Socceroos' box but his shot was blazed harmlessly over the bar.

    Substitute Abhishek Yadav saw his audacious lob attempt from 12 yards inside the half fly just wide on 73 minutes before Chhetri failed to apply gloss on a respectable scoreline for India, while Australia will have to play much better to have any chance of a first continental crown five years after making the switch to the Asian Football Confederation from Oceania.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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