Doha: A goal from experienced campaigner Khalfan Ibrahim helped Qatar register a stunning 1-0 win over Australia in a friendly match here yesterday.
The fleet-footed striker netted the match-winner in the 62nd minute against the Socceroos, who are preparing for the AFC Asian Cup which begins on home soil in January.
This was the second Middle East friendly for the men in green and gold in five days. On Friday they drew goalless against UAE.
At Lekhwiya Stadium, the Socceroos, playing their 500th international match, dominated play in the first half but were unable to breach the opposition’s defence and ended up conceding a goal much against the run of play.
Australia coach Ange Postecoglou made eight changes to the starting XI that took the field in the UAE. Centre-back Alex Wilkinson, captain Mile Jedinak and forward Robbie Kruse were the troika who were retained from the last match.
Wilkinson provided the defensive shield while Jedinak was the fulcrum of most of the Australian attacks.
Veteran Mark Bresciano, who plays for Al Gharafa in the Qatar Stars League, made a return to the playing eleven and so did James Troisi and Tim Cahill up front.
It didn’t take long for Australia to test the host’s defence. Two minutes into the match, the well-established partnership of Bresciano and Cahil were in the thick of the action.
The Al Gharafa man, deployed slightly ahead of holder Jedina, picked out Cahill unmarked at the back post, only for the New York Red Bulls man to power an uncharacteristically weak effort harmlessly into the turf.
Thereafter, the visitors saw more of the ball but had to wait until the 24th minute to create another goal-scoring opportunity.
Cahill, the livewire of the Australian attacks, won an aerial challenge inside the area and set up an unmarked Troisi, who delayed a bit and gave goalkeeper Qassem Burhan a chance to narrow the angle. In the end, Troisi’s shot was blocked by the keeper and he was unsuccessful in converting the rebound.
Qatar on the other hand came with the occasional attacks and tried a few long rangers to break the defensive shackles. Abdulaziz Hatem tried the long route without success and so did Hassan Al Haidous.
Australia tried to step up things up in the second half forcing a couple of succession of corners but failed to get past the last line of Qatar defense.
Qatar, egged on by drum-playing fans, breached the Australian defense with a combined move orchestrated by Sebastian Soria and Haidous.
Soria, operating on the left, set up Haidous with a cross and the last named essayed a gentle pass through the heart of the Australia defense for Khalfan to side step the advancing keeper and coolly guide the ball to the back of the net.
Australia had a chance to draw level in the 68th minute. Cahill, beat his marker in the area, but ended up firing a low strike straight at Burhan.
Thereon Australia pressed the panic buttons but lacked the momentum to make deep inroads handing the hosts a surprising win.