Australia were left on the brink of securing their place at next year's World Cup finals in South Africa after beating Uzbekistan 2-0 at the Olympic stadium on Wednesday.
Substitute Josh Kennedy broke the deadlock after 66
minutes with a header before forward Harry Kewell sealed the
win in the 73rd with a penalty.
Australia, who ended a 32-year drought by qualifying as
the last team for the 2006 finals, were tantalisingly close to
becoming the first country to join the host nation at the 2010
Yet to concede a single goal after five matches in the
fourth round of Asian qualifiers, Australia need to collect
just one more point from their remaining three matches in June
to secure their place at the finals.
A draw between Bahrain and Qatar in Manama would have sent
the Socceroos through. Bahrain won the match 1-0, meaning
Australia will have to wait until their next game in Qatar on
June 6 to advance.
Australia currently lead the group with 13 points from
Japan 11, with Bahrain on seven and Uzbekistan and Qatar at the
foot of the table on four each.
"There was a lot of pressure on today's game because we
knew we had to win the game," said Australia captain Lucas Neill.
"It was there for us to win but we've sent a statement out
to the rest of the group now and possibly the world that we
might be the first team to qualify for the World Cup."
Both teams squandered chances to find the net in a
scoreless first half but the Australians began to assert their
control after the break with Uzbekistan starting to show signs
Kennedy opened the scoring midway through the second half
when he connected with a perfectly-timed cross from Mark
Kewell put the result beyond doubt when he converted from
the spot after a clumsy challenge by Hayrulla Karimov on
Uzbekistan looked to have grabbed a consolation goal in
stoppage time when Anvarjon Soliev found the back of the net
only to have the goal disallowed for offside.
Uzbekistan, who have four points from six matches, still
have a chance of finishing third in the group to reach a
"The first two places have gone," Uzbek coach Mirdjalal
Kasimov said. "We have to keep our motivation up to keep
struggling for World Cup qualification."