New Castle (Australia): Australia struck twice early on and then soaked up the pressure as they downed United Arab Emirates 2-0 to set up an Asian Cup final against unbeaten South Korea on Tuesday.
Goals from defenders Trent Sainsbury and Jason Davidson in the first 15 minutes were enough to put the hosts in the frame for their first Asian Cup title in Saturday’s final.
The Emirates’ playmaker Omar Abdulrahman caused constant problems for the Socceroos at Newcastle’s Hunter Stadium, but the visitors were unable to find a way back.
Sainsbury had promised to “choke” UAE “until they’re blue” and they barely had time to draw breath when he headed in the game’s first corner after only three minutes.
The centre-half rose unmarked to nod the ball down and past goalkeeper Majed Naser, settling any early nerves for Ange Postecoglou’s men.
UAE targetman Ahmed Khalil almost hit back on 10 minutes but his low shot struck the outside of Mathew Ryan’s near post and went out for a goal-kick.
And on 14 minutes Australia earned breathing space when left-back Davidson coolly passing the ball into the bottom corner for his first international goal.
Australia’s front three of Robbie Kruse, Mathew Leckie and Tim Cahill were always dangerous but despite going 2-0 down, UAE refused to be cowed and they continually probed without being able to crack the home defence.
The Socceroos, who lost to Japan in the 2011 final, should have had a third shortly before the break but Mark Milligan could only drag his shot wide.
Khalil drilled a powerful long-range effort narrowly wide after the restart as the Gulf side sought to keep the game alive.
But that was the closest they came and despite continuous forays forward, the second half played out scoreless for what finished as a comfortable Australian victory.
Australia will be wary of South Korea in the final on January 31, after they lost 1-0 to the Taeguk Warriors at the group stage and with Uli Stielike’s men yet to concede a goal. Korea has defeated Iraq in semifinals earlier on Monday, also 2-0. (AFP)