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Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Socceroos held by UAE

A sub-strength Socceroos were served a taste of the challenge that lay ahead as they were held to a scoreless draw by a stubborn United Arab Emirates in their final Asian Cup tune-up.

Australia coach Holger Osieck opted to rest big guns Tim Cahill, Harry Kewell, Brett Emerton, Jason Culina and Mark Schwarzer from Wednesday night's friendly in Al Ain, taking a chance to test out the bulk of his squad.

But it wasn't easy going for a host of fringe players, with Australia failing to create much in attack despite a decent pitch and favourable conditions in the UAE's garden city.

Australia could have come away with a win after captain Lucas Neill found the back of the net in the 57th minute only for the goal to be somewhat-harshly ruled out with centre back partner Sasa Ognenovski ruled offside in the build-up.

UAE also had their chances for victory, forcing some good late saves out of debutant Nathan Coe while Fares Juma hit the post late with a powerful long range shot.

Osieck handed starts to the likes of Nathan Burns and Matt McKay while Coe and Robbie Kruse made their debuts when they were introduced after halftime.

Tommy Oar and Neil Kilkenny also got some game time in the second half and while none hurt their prospects ahead of the tournament in Qatar, neither did they make a significant statement.

Neill was typically sound at the back, while Mile Jedinak and Carl Valeri did a good job of control possession in the first half.

Osieck kept faith in Scott McDonald, who led the line with a hard-working Brett Holman in behind, but the Middlesbrough striker again had no joy in front of goal to remain scoreless after 21 games for his country.

Australia's best chance of the first half fell to McKay in the 22nd minute from a sweet lay-off from McDonald, but the Brisbane Roar midfielder fired his first-time shot over the bar.

McKay was also involved in the second half flashing a header just wide in the dying minutes but the best Australia could muster otherwise was a handful of half-chances.

Coe, who came on after halftime for Brad Jones as Osieck assessed his back-up keeping options, made several good reaction saves in a decent performance as the UAE mounted some late pressure.

Australia will head to Doha on Thursday ahead of their opening Asian Cup clash with India on Monday morning (AEDT).

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