The Socceroos faced the host nation and with a ploy to mix things up and hopefully increase our lack of goal situation, Arnie decided to protest conventional formations and started two men on top.
Controversial to the Australian supporters as both Giannou and Maclaren received a starting position. Controversial as Maclaren hasn’t immediately turned into a young Tim Cahill, forcing the Australian public to demand action.
Arnie’s Sydney FC inclustion of Rhyan Grant was proving to be a successful decision and completely saving any potential ‘Arnie’s club’ shaming. Grant showing growth in more than just his mullet, dominated the right side of the pitch with practically all of the shots into the area coming from the right. In comparison, he made the left look like Ned Flander’s store during a recession.
Thankfully for us, in the early stages of the match it was clear the UAE’s marking was less than satisfactory. Sainsbury after receiving so much space in the area upon a chance on goal with his head, telling of what was to come.
Within 15 minutes UAE already had a man stretchered off the pitch – don’t expect me to remember names people. Showing of the physicality displayed from both sides.
Excitingly, the ‘Roos were taking their chances. even Degenek tried for a shot on goal back in his own half after seeing the keeper off his line. Ikonomidis, Giannou and Maclaren were all penetrating like they’ve been abstinent, with hunger to get it in.
In the 43rd minute Kruse received a yellow card for taking out a player who was very clearly a Melbourne Victory fan as he nearly took out Graham Arnold on impact. Arnie with excellent decision making to avoid injury.
With the enjoyable football that was played, the first half flew by like Rhyan Grant’s hair in the wind.
Not long after half time, Leckie was substituted on for Cahill-prodigy Maclaren however as time went on, one would think Arnie should’ve left it as is.
The Socceroos found their second wing of energy, playing at about 70%, including a goal rightfully called offside for Giannou. Offside killing the birthday boy’s celebrations like a blackout kills the air-con in this weather.
With intentions to stay up all match to get Leckie, the ‘Roos kept pushing.
In the 67th minute we all felt our hearts in our stomachs. Degenek with a classic back pass to the keeper was embarrassingly intercepted by the opposition who also beat Maty Ryan, scoring the first goal of the match. We now sit here with just over 20 minutes on the clock, nervous if we are in fact going to get Leckie tonight.
Arnie brought on some speed in the confident Awer Mabil who immediately brought energy to the ever-deflating team. Towards the remaining 15 minutes, Andrew Nabbout was brought on to do just the same.
UAE’s desperation increased towards the end with sloppy and urgent challenges. They knew they were only in the lead due to Australia’s error and dropped to a 10 at the back as the majority of the second half was spent in the UAE’s half.
As the desperation to progress into semi-finals increased, as did the grandest of time wasting.
However in the 90th minute there was a head collision which knocked the opposition player (possibly) unconscious. He collided into Leckie who received an attractive bandaged look.
While I sat here with sympathy for the poor bastard as he was stretchered off, the son of a bitch came straight back on after chewing the clock for 4 minutes.
With 4 minutes of stoppage time to play out, Australia got about as aggressive as I am right now.
The game was more and more frustrating by the second. Within a couple of minutes of stoppage time the boys were ready to punch on like an NRL team on a typical weekend.
Further into stoppage time the keeper gets ‘injured’ for a good minute, sending Arnie’s health into a border line cardiac arrest.
The whistle blew, Leckie didn’t fight anyone but nor did he do anything impressive up front.
It was a disappointing ending to what started as a hopeful match. There were clear signs as time went on that this could easily go downhill for us. The formation was exciting initially but possibly the wrong players, would Mabil be more suited starting? Alternatively should we had Mabil, Maclaren and Nabbout starting up front? At the end of the day this is the manager’s decision and I’m going to chose to respect that. I have been critical of Arnie from the beginning and it is upsetting to feel as though there was more we could do. Guess it’s time to go home lads..
By Rose Valente