Abu Dhabi (AFP) – Tim Cahill came off the bench to score with only his second touch as Australia edged the United Arab Emirates 1-0 in 2018 World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.
The 36-year-old, who replaced Tomi Juric in the 71st minute at the Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, took only four minutes to ensure Australia’s second win in five days in Group B of Asian qualifying.
The goal came when a fine build-up saw Brad Smith freed on the left flank and the Bournemouth winger whipped an excellent ball into the area for Cahill to convert.
The result followed a 2-0 home triumph over Iraq last Thursday and gives Ange Postecoglou’s Socceroos a solid foundation to stay on course for yet another appearance in the World Cup.
They are level with Saudi Arabia at the top of the group with a maximum six points.
Cahill, a battle-hardened veteran who has featured in over 90 matches for Australia, didn’t hesitate to talk himself up after the match.
“It was my second touch! First one was off my chest. I want teams to be fearful of me when I come on. I’ve earned that respect over the last 10 years and I’m going to really push as hard as I can,” he said.
“This result, every time we put on the jersey it means so much. I’m so happy for the points because it means so much to our country.”
The match, played in the extreme heat of the Emirati desert, featured a drinks break to give respite to the players, and the tempo did not pick up until the second half.
Australia were denied by the bar early in the second half when Aaron Mooy’s thundering shot off a Smith pass beat UAE goalkeeper Khalid Essa but bounced back off the woodwork.
A minute later, it was the Aussie goal which survived a scare when the busy Ismail al-Hammadi broke down the left flank to deliver the ball to Ali Mabkhout but his half-volley went high and wide.
Essa was the star performer for the UAE, pulling off a handful of good saves during the course of the match before Cahill’s effort ruined the game for him and the UAE, who had upset Japan last week.