Tom Rogic won’t be available to the Socceroos for their Asian Cup quarter-final. Albert Perez/Getty Images
Tom Rogic won’t be available to the Socceroos for their Asian Cup quarter-final. Albert Perez/Getty Images

‘Horrendous’ decision ruins Socceroos

LOST in between the heroics of Mat Ryan and Mathew Leckie getting the Socceroos past Uzbekistan is the fact that when they take on tournament hosts UAE on Saturday they will have to do so without arguably their best attacking weapon.

Celtic star Tom Rogic will be suspended for the quarter-final after picking up his second yellow card of the tournament.

Rogic had been walking the suspension tightrope after a yellow card in the 3-0 group stage win over Palestine in Dubai.

On Tuesday, Rogic found himself ruled out of the quarter-final when he was booked in the 20th minute of the round of 16 match against Uzbekistan at the Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium.

The card came in controversial fashion as he passed the ball then collided with an Uzbek defender before the referee went to his pocket.

Coach Graham Arnold was disappointed to lose Rogic but believes he has the options to cope with the absence of the 26-year-old.

"The yellow card was a bit harsh because Tommy had no intent," Arnold said.

Graham Arnold will need to reshuffle his line-up.
Graham Arnold will need to reshuffle his line-up.

"These things happen. We have the options and I can change the system if we need to.

"We'll look at how UAE play, we'll analyse them tomorrow and, like I said, we've got plenty of options with different systems with these players that we can use."

The most likely option would be to start Massimo Luongo in place of Rogic as the key attacking midfielder but Arnold ever one for the mind games hinted at larger changes to the team structure.

"I could change the system and play with two strikers, two number nines, we could play with a diamond midfield," Arnold said. "We've got plenty of options."

 

Whatever the options the Socceroos would want to put UAE away without the need for another match to go to extra time or penalties with the need for Brighton No. 1 Mat Ryan to be the hero.

Ryan starred in the penalty shootout to secure the Socceroos an Asian Cup quarter-final berth against hosts UAE.

Ryan made two saves in his first penalty shootout in a national team shirt while substitute Leckie stroked home the winning spot kick after a frustrating 0-0 draw in Al Ain.

Australian players celebrate with their goalkeeper Mat Ryan.
Australian players celebrate with their goalkeeper Mat Ryan.

Ryan denied Uzbek pair Islom Tukhtakhujaev and Marat Bikmaev with saves in the shootout.

His heroics enabled Leckie, playing for the first time in the tournament after recovering from a hamstring tear suffered on club duty in Germany in December, to seal a spot in the last eight.

Victory was probably deserved for Australia despite the Socceroos once again struggling to overcome a well-drilled defensive unit.

Uzbekistan coach Hector Cuper set out to frustrate Arnold's team, often putting six players behind the ball before attempting to catch Australia on the counter.

A relieved Arnold praised both men after the match.

"That's why he's in the Premier League, that's why he's such a high-class goalkeeper and his two saves in penalty shootouts showed what a top goalkeeper he is," Arnold said of Ryan.

"The whole plan was to have Leckie back around this time and the plan has worked, can't have worked any better with him coming on and scoring the final penalty."

The Socceroos engulf Mat Ryan after the penalty shootout win over Uzbekistan. Francois Nel/Getty Images
The Socceroos engulf Mat Ryan after the penalty shootout win over Uzbekistan. Francois Nel/Getty Images

Australia began the game sluggishly, echoing their poor start against Jordan in the opening group match.

Aziz Behich's tame volley was the only shot on target for the Socceroos in the opening half while Uzbek striker Eldor Shomurodov came closest to scoring when he broke clear of Trent Sainsbury and Ryan had to make a one-handed block to deny him a fifth goal of the tournament.

Australia gained control of the match in the second half but really failed to threaten until Leckie's introduction in the 68th minute.

The 27-year-old forced veteran Uzbek keeper Ignatiy Nesterov to make a good save after a strong run through the left-side of the White Wolves' defence. Despite Australia's struggles, Arnold denied Uzbekistan and Jordan had given future opposition a template to frustrate his team going forward.

"If you get a goal in the first 20 minutes it's a totally different game," Arnold said.

"What was important for us was we were patient, we didn't lose our heads by not being able to break down the brick wall."

Arnold's men now face host nation UAE, who also had to come through extra-time as they defeated Kyrgyzstan 3-2 in Abu Dhabi.

UAE needed a favourable refereeing decision to put Kyrgyzstan away.

Substitute Ahmed Khalil netted the winning penalty in the 103rd minute after Ali Mabkhout won a soft spot-kick when Bekzhan Sagynbaev was adjudged to have pushed him over in the box.

Kyrgyzstan missed a string of chances at 2-1 down in the second half before Tursunali Rustamov's stoppage-time header sent the game to extra time. They also hit the crossbar with 10 seconds remaining in the additional 30 minutes.

The UAE were third at the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia and reached the final the last time they hosted the tournament in 1996.

-With AAP

News Corp Australia


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