The Socceroos clinched a dramatic win over Greece in a rain-soaked ANZ Stadium after Matthew Leckie scored with the last kick of the match.
Greeks have a history for many things but unfortunately for fans hoping for a whitewash, there was neither tragedy nor comedy in their backline. Instead was something that is becoming classical by their own standards – their renowned deep, defensive wall. For 89 minutes, it appeared Australia could not breach it before Leckie broke through with cracking strike to seal the 1-0 win.
Against a side as aggressive and attacking as Australia, it was quickly reinforced from a three to five-man unit minutes after kick-off and threatened to render a promising clash into a forgettable evening. The torrential conditions in Sydney didn’t help and only justified the tactics of the 2004 European champions.
Their coach promised to offer little more going forward than what they could on the counter. Michael Skibbe said he would retain their defensive fortitude from the past, one that’s suffocated many strong football nations in the hopes of taming the aggressive and attacking Socceroos.
It looked to have worked, until Ange Postecoglou’s men showed some of their greatest attacking ingenuity in recent friendlies.
For 35 minutes Greece’s backline was a phalanx, until Australia produced some of its best. Quick exchanges and frenetic movement through the middle of the park left the nippy Greek midfielders in their wake and resolute defenders chasing shadows and when Robbie Kruse played Nathan Burns into the box, a special goal looked certain.
In a match so cagey, perhaps it was the extraordinary time and space inside the box that Burns struggled to adjust to, scuffing a shot from close range.
The best chance for Australia in the first half didn’t come from one of their own but a nasty deflection from a Greek defender. A looping clearance from a cross was destined to drop under the cross bar for what would have been an embarrassing own goal before Kapino pulled-off a brave save, putting himself at risk of crashing into the upright in the process.
Kapino was at his best again to deny Mark Milligan on the stroke of half-time when a well-worked move looked like it would finally break the deadlock. A cut back found Milligan surging but his placed shot was blocked by a superb diving save from the Olympiacos reserve goalkeeper.
The hosts were cursing another spurned chance after the restart when Apostolos Giannou should have scored against the nation he made his international debut for, missing from close range before being flagged for offside.
It was to be his last contribution before being substituted for Tim Cahill, whose entrance sparked the biggest cheer of the night from the 38,682 fans.
Defender Trent Sainsbury came even closer when his shot cannoned off the upright in the 80th minute before the breakthrough finally arrived with a minute to play. Cahill rose highest from a corner to rattle the back of the net with the goal Australia deserved before ripping his shirt off in celebration. It was cruelly cut short however after the assistant referee flagged for the corner having crossed the goal ever so slightly en-route to the forehead of Cahill.
It appeared to be one of those nights for Australia, and a trademark one for the defensive Greeks until Leckie finally broke through. With the last kick of the ball, Leckie fired a fierce shot from the edge of the box that neither the officials, upright or Kapino could stop.