Australia 4 // UAE 2 aet
Australia Bulut 07’, Amini 49’, Leckie 95’, Fletcher 103’
UAE Khalil (pen) 24’, 84’
Man of the match Matthew Leckie (Australia)
The UAE's defence of their Asian Under 19 Championship title came to an end in China yesterday - along with their hopes of playing in the 2011 Under 20 World Cup - as Australia avenged their defeat of two years ago to storm in to the semi-finals of the continental tournament.
The defending champions twice came from behind to send the game into extra time, but a fitter Australian side scored two more goals to win 4-2 at the Linzi Stadium to set up a semi-final match against Saudi Arabia.
Abdulmajeed al Nemer, the UAE's assistant coach, was gracious in defeat and said the future of Emirati football was bright after a gallant showing from the youngsters. "Firstly, I congratulate Australia for getting to the semi-finals and the [U20] World Cup. They are a strong team," al Nemer told the Asian Football Confederation website. "We had chances but it was difficult and, in the end, I think Australia deserved to be at the World Cup and through to the next stage. Sometimes you prepare everything to qualify but sometimes you have to accept the other team is better.
"When we win we are happy but we can also accept it when we lose. This is a good team and we have not had long to prepare them. We have good players and I am sure they will get even better." The defeat means the UAE miss out on qualification for the U20 World Cup in Colombia next year, as one of Asia's four representatives - the last four teams in China. Ahmed Khalil, the UAE captain, was outstanding again. The top scorer when the UAE won the trophy two years ago scored twice to take his tally to six goals in four games, but his efforts proved to be in vain.
Khalil wiped out Kerem Bulut's sixth-minute opener with a penalty kick he himself earned and then fired a superbly taken second equaliser six minutes from time after Mustafa Amini's shot had put Australia 2-1 up three minutes into the second half. Matthew Leckie struck six minutes into extra time and Matthew Fletcher, the substitute, extended the lead to seal Australia's passage to the semi-finals.
Jan Versleijen, the Australia coach, who saw his team beaten 3-0 by the UAE in the semi-finals two years ago, praised his young players for the resolve they showed yesterday. "It was a very difficult match," said Versleijen, who was also the coach of the Pro League club Al Jazira during the 2006/2007 season. "You could see that it was like a final because both teams were very nervous at the start of the game. When we came into this tournament it was in the players' mind that we had a good group who could possibly win this tournament. But we are not the only ones who have this thought and in the semi-finals there are four good teams. If you win this tournament then you truly are the best team."
And the Dutchman is determined to ensure his side reach the final this year at the very least. "I am very happy with this result," he added. "Two years ago in Saudi Arabia we got to the semi-finals but lost to the UAE and I would like for us to better than that this time." Saudi Arabia, edged out Uzbekistan, the 2008 finalists, 2-1, in another game that went to extra time. In the second semi-final there will be a clash of neighbouring North and South Korea.
South Korea came from two goals down to beat Japan 3-2, while North Korea beat China 2-0. The semi-finals are to be played on Thursday.
* Compiled by Amith Passela