Sydney - Captain
Mile Jedinak fired a second half hat-trick as Australia swept into next
year's Soccer World Cup in Russia with a 3-1 aggregate playoff victory over
Honduras in Sydney on Wednesday.
The Aston Villa midfielder's free kick went in off Henry Figueroa on
54 minutes, and he then buried two penalties in the space of 13 minutes
before Honduras scrambled a late consolation through Alberth Elis.
The final whistle heralded a massive roar from the 77 000 home crowd
at the Sydney Olympic stadium as the Socceroos claimed the penultimate
World Cup qualifying spot, following last week's 0-0 first-leg draw.
It will be Australia's fourth consecutive World Cup and fifth
overall, and comes in the 22nd game of a mammoth, 29-month qualifying
campaign criss-crossing Asia, the Middle East and Central America.
"It's overwhelming to be honest. When you are coaching your own
nation to burden of responsibility is even greater," said Australia
coach Ange Postecoglou.
"I'm delighted for everyone - the players, the staff and the
organisation. We did it the hard way and it's a credit to every one of
them," he added.
The game unravelled for the central Americans with the Socceroos
scoring three times in the last 36 minutes stadium after a scoreless
Goal chances were scarce in a cautious opening period, with the best
chance falling in the 37th minute to Celtic's Tom Rogic, whose shot was
well saved by Donis Escober.
Argentine referee Nestor Pitana issued a total of three yellow cards,
two to Australia's Matt Jurman and Aaron Mooy and the other to Maynor
Figueroa for a foul on Tim Cahill.
Honduras had to substitute injured Emilio Izaguirre nearing half-time with Henry Figueroa.
Australia were fielding four across the back, with deep-lying
midfielder Jedinak adding to the rearguard, but the Honduras posed
little threat in the first half.
Jedinak broke the deadlock in the 54th minute with free kick which
deflected in off Figueroa, but was eventually credited to the skipper
after initially being marked as an own goal.
The goal revved up the Socceroos and the capacity home crowd, and
Cahill came close with a looping header but Escober scrambled it away
off the woodwork.
Cahill's night was over after 66 minutes, replaced by striker Tomi
Juric to a standing ovation from the home crowd in salute to his
courageous fightback from a recent ankle injury.
The Socceroos tightened their grip when Bryan Acosta was adjudged to have handballed and the referee pointed to the spot.
Jedinak stepped up and rammed home the spot-kick - his 17th goal in
his 73rd international - and Australia were two-up with 18 minutes
Substitute Robbie Kruse was then brought down as he closed in on goal
and again the referee blew for a penalty, allowing Jedinak to claim his
brace with an identical finish.
Elis gave the Honduran fans something to cheer deep in stoppage time with his goal after a goalmouth melee.