Michael Lynch: Mission accomplished with hearts in mouths

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By , 12/09/2019 22:12

gt Roos
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Rio

MATCH STATS / AS IT HAPPENED

Surely it wasn’t going to be one of those nights.

Surely this wasn’t going to be one of those games, a match where one team has almost all the posession, virtually all the chances – and still can’t finish the job.

For all of the first half and much of the second of a game upon which hung so much of the short term future of Australian soccer, that’s how it looked.

Until a late, dramatic intervention from the bench, an 82nd minute winner from substitute Josh Kennedy, that broke Iraqi resistance and ensured that Australia will, after all, be going to the ball, the biggest party in global sport. The World Cup in Brazil, 2014.We go to Rio! How you did you celebrate? Click here to email us your photos and videos

Given the problems they had in breaking down such an inexperienced and youthful Iraqi side, it is a legitimate question to ask whether this current, ageing iteration of the Socceroos will make much of an impression when they get there.

But, in these circumstances, that would be churlish and an inquiry for a later day.

Suffice to say that it is mission accomplished, but only just.

German Holger Osieck might not be as much of a gambler as his Dutch predecessor but one, Guus Hiddink, nor might he have the inherent fortune of ”Lucky Guus”.

But the Gods smiled on him in this starred arena for the Socceroos as he rolled the dice, replacing talismanic Tim Cahill with the lanky Kennedy, who had sat on the bench throughout the draw with Japan and the win over Jordan.

Cahill made his displeasure at the decision plain, but the coach was in the end vindicated in the only way  that counts.

This was always going to be a night where the result was all that mattered, with the performance secondary.

The Socceroos huffed and puffed, sweated and strained, pushed and pulled, but could not blow the Iraqi house down even though it often appeared to be made of the flimsiest of construction materials.

It seemed that Australia, crammed full of players of vast experience, might in the end be the men of straw, not the callow youths of Iraq who grew in confidence as each moment passed and each Australian attack was repelled.

For Iraq, who fielded five teenagers in a starting eleven with an average age of 20.9 _ a full decade younger than their hosts _ this was a game in which there was nothing to lose. They didn’t throw caution to the wind, but they didn’t sit back behind the ball either.

Initially they were overwhelmed by the physicality and drive of the Australians, who began at a rapid pace in search of the early goal they knew would put them in the ascendency.

How Australia wanted one, to settle nerves, dim the optimism of their youthful opponents and ensure the game was stretched from the outset.

On any other night save one where the stakes were as high as this they might have got it.

Cahill, so long and so often Australia’s saviour had a great opportunity in the third minute but was denied by Iraqi goalkeeper Noor Sabri. The 28-year-old would have been a virtual youth were he playing for Australia but in what was, in football terms, a pre-pubescent Iraqi line up, the shot stopper qualifed as the senior man.

Robbie Kruse showed a week earlier in Melbourne that he was one of the Socceroos brightest hopes for the future, a lithe, jinking figure blessed with pace and balance, happy to run at opponents or create space for others. He tried his utmost to galvanise the stuttering attack again, playing one twos and making forward runs, but all to no avail.

Big defender Sash Ognenovski ventured forward, combining with Lucas Neill. It would have been one of the more unlikely goal and assist combinations in Australian  history, but it remained a longed for hope for rather than actual footnote when Ognenovski’s header flashed over the bar.

The clock ticked, Australia tried to build patiently, but still the goal wouldn’t come.

The pace lifted in the second period. Emboldened, the Iraqis threw men forward searching for a goal that would have sent shockwaves round this crowded arena.

A big complaint against Osieck is that he has put his faith for too long in the senior men and not trusted to youthful exuberance enough

The lumpy pitch, which hosted a rugby league game two weeks before, was doing neither side any favours, but the reality for Australian fans, as their team toiled in search of the goal they so desperately hoped for, was beginning to dawn. This was no foregone conclusion.

A big complaint against Osieck is that he has stuck too long with his senior men and not built for the future, failed to put his trust in the exuberance of youth.

Certainly his younger brigade _ winger Tommy Oar and Kruse  _ looked liveliest as Australia took the game to Iraq, and when the ineffectual Brett Holman made way for Tommy Rogic with half an hour to go the man widely regarded as the future creative force for the Australian game got his chance to change the course of history.

For one glorious instant it looked as though Kruse had delivered, his drive from the edge of the penalty area scorching into the net, but the ”goal” was disallowed for a foul in the build up.

Osieck rolled the dice and threw all his cards on the table. And in the end it was a man whom he had ignored through much of the campaign who delivered when it mattered most. The end justified the means. Three World Cups in a row is an achievement any nation can be proud of.

AUSTRALIA 1 (Josh Kennedy 83m) bt IRAQ 0 at ANZ Stadium. Crowd: 80,523. Referee: Faghani Alireza.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Shellshocked Lions tamed by Brumbies

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By , 12/09/2019 22:12

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 18: The Lions look dejected after their defeat during the International tour match between the ACT Brumbies and the British & Irish Lions at Canberra Stadium on June 18, 2013 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images) Photo: David Rogers NEWS/SPORT: Brumbies players centre L-R Siliva Siliva and Clyde Rathbone celebrate after beating the British and Irish Lions at Canberra Stadium. . 18th June 2013.Photo by MELISSA ADAMS of The Canberra Times.. Photo: Melissa Adams MLA
Nanjing Night Net

AS IT HAPPENED / MATCH STATS

The ACT Brumbies have crushed the British and Irish Lions’ confidence on the eve of the Test series with a historic victory at Canberra Stadium.

In a battle that will go down in rugby folklore, the young Brumbies became the first Australian provincial side to beat the Lions in more than 40 years.

The 14-12 triumph in freezing conditions is a massive blow for the Lions just days out from the first Test against the Wallabies in Brisbane.

Sure, the Lions fielded a second-string line-up to protect their stars from injury.

But the Brumbies were without a dozen top-line players and still managed to fight and grind their way to one of the biggest upsets in rugby history.

In just two years South African Jake White has taken the Brumbies from a disastrous rabble to Super Rugby contenders and now world beaters.

The Brumbies will refocus for the Super Rugby finals when the competition resumes on July 13.

They’ve locked in their place at the top of the Australian conference and will bask in the glory of beating the best players in Europe.

It was a win that made Wallabies great and Brumbies legend Stephen Larkham cry.

Larkham was part of the Wallabies’ triumphant series against the Lions in 2001.

He’s won World Cups, Bledisloe Cups, Tri Nations and Super Rugby titles.

“This is one of the best, very emotional,” Larkham said with tears in his eyes.

“The boys knew what they were doing, we’ve closed out some teams this year but this is one of the best.

“I’m very emotional, we’re going to enjoy this tonight and then refocus on the Force.”

The two-point win will be a huge boost for Australian rugby ahead of the Test series.

Despite the Brumbies leading the Australian conference, the match was shunted to a Tuesday night while NSW and Queensland played on a Saturday night.

It brought back memories of the 2001 tour when the Brumbies almost clinched a historic victory, only to fall to a heart-breaking defeat in the dying stages.

On paper Tuesday night’s match it was an massive mismatch. The Lions boasted almost 600 Test caps despite missing most of their starting line-up.

In comparison, the Brumbies had just 28 shared between two players.

The Brumbies are the first Australian provincial side to beat the Lions since Queensland won in 1971.

They are the first provincial side in the world to beat the Lions since Northern Transvaal in 1997.

Brumbies coach and South African World Cup-winning mentor Jake White described the result as one of the highlights of his career.

“You have to put it in perspective, it’s humbling to think these young boys have done that,” White said.

“They were fantastic, the way they were able to grind it out and win … the way it unfolded, it was good to see them off.”

The Brumbies staved off a last-ditch attempt from the Lions and celebrated after the siren as the ball was booted into the grandstand.

Outside centre Tevita Kuridrani scored the only try of the match before the teams traded penalty goals.

The Brumbies played like the Super Rugby title contenders while the Lions were ironing out some kinks before the Tests begin.

It frustrated the Lions. Experience and class should have had them well in front.

But the Brumbies’ determination strangled the visitors and tempers threatened to boil over when Lions flanker Sean O’Brien started to push the Brumbies players.

The Brumbies positioned themselves for a major upset when they led 8-3 at half-time.

Mogg booted two penalty goals after the break to stretch the lead to 14-3, but the Lions hit back with Stuart Hogg slotting one of his own.

The Lions sent in reinforcements to launch a late charge and penalty goals got them within just two points with less than 10 minutes remaining.

BRUMBIES 14 (Tevita Kuridrani try Jesse Mogg 3 pens) bt LIONS 12 (Owen Farrell 2, Stuart Hogg 2 pens) at Canberra Stadium. Referee: Jerome Garces. Crowd: 21,655.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

How will the ball bounce this time?

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By , 12/09/2019 22:12

It should have gone straight. If it had, it would have led to honour and glory and an inviolable place in St Kilda legend and the history of the game. But it didn’t. And in a crude way, it summed up Stephen Milne.
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It was inside the last minute of the 2010 grand final, and St Kilda trailed by a point. Norm Smith medallist Lenny Hayes’ rushed kick forward took two jagged, random bounces. The first went left, over the head of Milne and Collingwood’s Ben Johnson. But Milne, as ever, read it first and best, and was now out of Johnson’s reach and tracking the ball on its trajectory towards the goal. There was no one else ahead.

But the next bounce was a rogue, sharp and right, deceiving even Milne and trickling over the line for a behind. St Kilda never did win the premiership that it seemed it must in that time, and Milne never did assume Barry Breen’s messianic mantle, and it was all because of that wrong-‘un of a bounce.

The wrong-‘un is a good ball, skilful, clever and, against the unsuspecting, devastating. Colloquially, it is also someone who has taken a wrong turn. Arguably, Milne in his time has personified both meanings. Across 13 seasons, he has averaged more than two goals a game, an extraordinary number for a small forward, a triumph of living on one’s wits in a position where nothing comes easily. One night against the Brisbane Lions, he kicked 11. The ends at Etihad Stadium are named for the giants Lockett and Coventry, but the man who has kicked the most goals there is the diminutive Milne.

For the past three years, he has led St Kilda’s goalkicking. For the past two, he has been All-Australian. It is a replete career. Ascribe those numbers to Eddie Betts, or Leon Davis, or Cyril Rioli, and the feeling would be warm and fuzzy. Other than among St Kilda supporters, Milne does not inspire that same affection. If graphed, the peak would be at grudging respect. Mostly, this has to do with impressions, about which Milne can do little. There is something about his manner, impish and leering, that aggravates opposition fans. He was Hayden Ballantyne long before Ballantyne. Like Ballantyne, Milne appeared to enjoy getting under the skin of others. It was a persona, but it was inescapable.

Milne was only in his fourth season when the charges now revived first were aired. It has coloured attitudes towards him ever since. Of course, that is not his fault. The animus towards him reached a miserable low earlier in 2010 when in a heated exchange at quarter-time in a match against Collingwood, Mick Malthouse was seen to mouth at him the word ”rapist”.

Malthouse was fined, and apologised, but crowds are notoriously unthinking, and indiscriminate in their favours, and despite repeated appeals to better instincts, the opprobrium has rained down on Milne ever since. For the most part, he gave the impression it was water off a duck’s back. But earlier this season it got to him, and he talked of the vilification and its effect on him and his family. If the field ever was Milne’s sanctuary, it is no longer. With grave charges weighing, he would be a brazen man to set foot out there on Saturday.

It should have gone straight on. It nearly did.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Mission accomplished … just

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By , 12/09/2019 22:12

Josh Kennedy.Surely it wasn’t going to be one of those nights.
Nanjing Night Net

Surely this wasn’t going to be one of those games, a match where one team has almost all the posession, virtually all the chances – and still can’t finish the job.

For all of the first half and much of the second of a game upon which hung so much of the short term future of Australian soccer, that’s how it looked.

Until a late, dramatic intervention from the bench, an 82nd-minute winner from substitute Josh Kennedy, that broke Iraqi resistance and ensured that Australia will, after all, be going to the ball, the biggest party in global sport. The World Cup in Brazil, 2014.

Given the problems they had in breaking down such an inexperienced and youthful Iraqi side, it is a legitimate question to ask whether this current, ageing iteration of the Socceroos will make much of an impression when they get there.

But, in these circumstances, that would be churlish and an inquiry for a later day.

Suffice to say that it is mission accomplished, but only just.

German Holger Osieck might not be as much of a gambler as his Dutch predecessor but one, Guus Hiddink, nor might he have the inherent fortune of ”Lucky Guus”.

But the Gods smiled on him in this starred arena for the Socceroos as he rolled the dice, replacing talismanic Tim Cahill with the lanky Kennedy, who had sat on the bench throughout the draw with Japan and the win over Jordan.

This is the Kennedy moment for this generation. Where were you the day Kennedy shot the ball into the back of the net #AUSvIRQ— paul suttor (@paulsuttor) June 18, 2013

Cahill made his displeasure at the decision plain, but the coach was in the end vindicated in the only way that counts.

This was always going to be a night where the result was all that mattered, with the performance secondary.

The Socceroos huffed and puffed, sweated and strained, pushed and pulled, but could not blow the Iraqi house down even though it often appeared to be made of the flimsiest of construction materials.

It seemed that Australia, crammed full of players of vast experience, might in the end be the men of straw, not the callow youths of Iraq who grew in confidence as each moment passed and each Australian attack was repelled.

For Iraq, who fielded five teenagers in a starting eleven with an average age of 20.9 — a full decade younger than their hosts — this was a game in which there was nothing to lose. They didn’t throw caution to the wind, but they didn’t sit back behind the ball either.

Initially they were overwhelmed by the physicality and drive of the Australians, who began at a rapid pace in search of the early goal they knew would put them in the ascendency.

How Australia wanted one, to settle nerves, dim the optimism of their youthful opponents and ensure the game was stretched from the outset.

On any other night save one where the stakes were as high as this they might have got it.

Cahill, so long and so often Australia’s saviour had a great opportunity in the third minute but was denied by Iraqi goalkeeper Noor Sabri. The 28-year-old would have been a virtual youth were he playing for Australia but in what was, in football terms, a pre-pubescent Iraqi line up, the shot stopper qualifed as the senior man.

Robbie Kruse showed a week earlier in Melbourne that he was one of the Socceroos brightest hopes for the future, a lithe, jinking figure blessed with pace and balance, happy to run at opponents or create space for others. He tried his utmost to galvanise the stuttering attack again, playing one twos and making forward runs, but all to no avail.

Big defender Sash Ognenovski ventured forward, combining with Lucas Neill. It would have been one of the more unlikely goal and assist combinations in Australian history, but it remained a longed for hope for rather than actual footnote when Ognenovski’s header flashed over the bar.

The clock ticked, Australia tried to build patiently, but still the goal wouldn’t come.

The pace lifted in the second period. Emboldened, the Iraqis threw men forward searching for a goal that would have sent shockwaves around the crowded arena.

The lumpy pitch, which hosted a rugby league game two weeks before, was doing neither side any favours, but the reality for Australian fans, as their team toiled in search of the goal they so desperately hoped for, was beginning to dawn. This was no foregone conclusion.

A big complaint against Osieck is that he has stuck too long with his senior men and not built for the future, failed to put his trust in the exuberance of youth.

Certainly his younger brigade — winger Tommy Oar and Kruse — looked liveliest as Australia took the game to Iraq, and when the ineffectual Brett Holman made way for Tommy Rogic with half an hour to go the man widely regarded as the future creative force for the Australian game got his chance to change the course of history.

For one glorious instant it looked as though Kruse had delivered, his drive from the edge of the penalty area scorching into the net, but the ”goal” was disallowed for a foul in the build up.

Osieck rolled the dice and threw all his cards on the table. And in the end it was a man whom he had ignored through much of the campaign who delivered when it mattered most. The end justified the means. Three World Cups in a row is an achievement any nation can be proud of.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Merritt deserves Origin selection

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By , 12/09/2019 22:12

NATHAN Merritt deserves his chance. When he was announced on Tuesday as NSW’s replacement for the suspended Blake Ferguson, there were widespread cheers from fans of all clubs.
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But the South Sydney flyer was not merely a sentimental selection.

With 148 first-grade tries to his name, 11 of them this season, he is a proven performer who is unlikely to let anyone down in Origin II at Suncorp Stadium next Wednesday.

While it is impossible to begrudge Merritt an opportunity that probably should have come several years ago, Knights wingers Akuila Uate and James McManus are entitled to wonder what more they could have done.

Their statistics this season compare favourably to Merritt’s.

In terms of tryscoring potency, Merritt and McManus have both crossed the stripe 11 times, while Uate has eight four-pointers from 11 games.

Merritt is a natural finisher but his career strike rate of 69.4per cent is well shy of Uate’s (77.2per cent).

Both Uate and McManus are clearly bigger than Merritt, and on average they produce more yardage per game.

In Origin, wingers are expected to do the dirty work in their own territory, carting the ball upfield from dummy-half.

Uate has not been chosen since game two of last series, when he was sadly exposed under the high ball and in defence.

The perception is that he is error-prone and would be a target for Queensland’s playmakers, but Merritt’s stats suggest that he, too, can be a weak link out wide.

McManus, who has not played for the Blues since his lone game in 2009, hardly featured in discussions.

But Knights coach Wayne Bennett recently rated McManus the ‘‘form winger in the competition’’ and it is hard to argue.

He is one of the leading try poachers in the competition, has made half as many errors as Merritt and broken twice as many tackles.

McManus is not as flashy as many wingers but week in, week out, he gets the job done.

He could not have done much more to state his case for an Origin recall. On merit.

NATHAN MERRITT

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