Oar special saves Young Socceroos

August 1, 2011
By Adrian Warren

Star winger Tommy Oar scored the best goal of his burgeoning career as Australia salvaged a 1-1 draw with Ecuador in their opening match at the FIFA under 20 World Cup football tournament.

A 24th-minute goal from Juan Govea looked likely to give Ecuador a deserved win in the Group C clash in Manizales, Colombia on Monday morning (AEST).

Ecuador manufactured the majority of clear cut chances.

A perfectly executed 30 metre left foot curler in the 89th minute from former Brisbane Roar star Oar, who now plays for Dutch club Utrecht, secured a precious point for Australia.

"Obviously on a personal note, I was happy I scored the free kick, but as a team coming into the game, we were looking for a better result than we got," Oar said.

"The Australian mentality is to keep on fighting and I think all the boys did that and, luckily enough, we got our reward in the end."

Asked if it was the best goal of his career, Oar, who finished the match as Australian captain, grinned and said: "yes, without a doubt".

Australian goalkeeper Mark Birighitti kept his team in the game with several fine saves.

"I am happy with the result, but it was not a good game for us," Australian coach Jan Versleijen said.

Australia's passing inside the Ecuadorian half lacked penetration, with midfield playmaker Mustafa Amini, striker Kerem Bulut and wide men Oar and Kofi Danning all battling to make an impact.

The best attacking moments came mainly in the first 14 minutes.

They missed a glorious opportunity to hit the front inside the first 30 seconds when Danning blazed over from close range, while Marc Warren had a goalbound header cleared just before the quarter-hour mark.

"We made it difficult for ourselves," Versleijen said.

"After 30 seconds, we could have scored which would have changed the whole game from the beginning.

"The first 15 minutes of the game, we played quite well but, after that, we lost our grip on the midfield. We weren't able to play the ball from the back and get the ball into the midfield.

"We were poor, playing long balls, which was not part of our game plan."

The Ecuadorian goal came when Marcos Caicedo's cross from the byline was pushed out by Birighitti and Govea blasted home from close range.

Ecuador took control and forced Birighitti into three top saves before halftime.

They also threatened early in the second half, but Australia improved after Versleijen made two early changes.

His youngest player, 17-year-old substitute midfielder Terry Antonis, added some spark and Australia looked more dangerous in the final third of the game.

"We changed the structure of the midfield, we brought some different qualities to the midfield and I think that changed the game," Versleijen said.

Spain thrashed Costa Rica 4-1 in the other Group C fixture.

The Young Socceroos play Costa Rica on Thursday (AEST) and Spain on Sunday (AEST).