Tim Cahill demonstrated his enduring value to Australia by coming off the bench and netting the only goal in a 1-0 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying win away to United Arab Emirates on Wednesday (AEST).
The veteran, Australia’s all-time leading scorer, is now 36 and playing for A-League club Melbourne City after ending a brief spell in the lucrative Chinese Super League.
But the former Millwall, Everton and New York Red Bulls favourite has retained his uncanny knack for delivering when it counts on international duty, meeting Brad Smith’s cross to slot home from close range with 15 minutes to go at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
The victory, secured by Cahill’s 48th goal in 92 appearances, sees Ange Postecoglou’s team retain a 100 per cent record from two matches played in the third round of Asian Football Confederation qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Asian Cup holders Australia, who defeated UAE 2-0 in the semi-finals of the regional competition en route to glory on home soil in January 2015, created the first real opening of the game after 16 minutes.
Tomi Juric found Robbie Kruse inside the area, the forward shooting across goal and seeing his attempt well saved by Khalid Essa.
A tense opening period produced few genuine chances, although Rogic, teed up by a Juric lay-off, saw a deflected shot parried over the bar by Essa in first-half stoppage time.
The visitors were perhaps fortunate to retain a full complement of players when Rogic was only booked for a stamp on Omar Abdulrahman four minutes into the second period.
Just before the hour, a mistake from substitute Abdelaziz Husain gifted a chance to Aaron Mooy, the midfielder firing his strike against the crossbar.
Less than a minute later, UAE enjoyed a rare sight of goal on the counterattack, Ahmed Mabkhout sending a difficult chance high and wide after being found in behind the Australia defence at the back post.
It took the intervention of substitute Cahill to break the deadlock in the 75th minute, the experienced forward reprising the role of the Socceroos’ match-winner he knows so well, collecting a deep Smith delivery at the back post and firing into an unguarded net, with Essa left stranded.
Goalkeeper Mathew Ryan and defender Ryan McGowan were both called upon to preserve the lead in the final exchanges, Australia seeing out a late UAE rally to join Saudi Arabia on six points at the top of Group B.