International: Tim Cahill header ensures Australia earn 1-0 win over Costa Rica
A Tim Cahill header ensured Australia made a winning start to the Ange Postecoglou era with a 1-0 win over Costa Rica.
Last Updated: 19/11/13 11:47am
After a nervous start that saw them almost concede an early own goal, the hosts settled into their work and dominated a goalless opening period in front of 20,165 fans.
Cahill came off the bench in the 52nd minute and produced the defining moment 17 minutes later when he headed home a curling Tommy Oar corner. It was his 29th international strike, bringing him level with level with Damian Mori as Australia's leading goalscorer.
His matchwinner was not without an element of luck as the ball took a wicked deflection off Junior Diaz, but the Socceroos were worthy winners after dominating possession and creating the bulk of the chances in an encouraging performance.
Mark Milligan and Robbie Kruse starred for the home side while young-gun Tom Rogic looked dangerous in a 25-minute second-half cameo.
The Socceroos narrowly avoided a setback in the fifth minute after a mix up between left-back Jason Davidson and rookie goalkeeper Mat Ryan.
Ryan hesitated on a ball he should have claimed, leaving Davidson to poke the ball towards his own goal before Ivan Franjic saved the day with a desperate clearance.
But the hosts steadied thereafter, enjoying a 10-minute period of total dominance as they peppered Patrick Pemberton in the Costa Rica goal.
Milligan, the dominant midfield player in the first half, created the first half-chance for Mathew Leckie who was unable to find the target but earned an early corner in the seventh minute.
Rhys Williams then sent a classy ball through to put Kruse one-on-one with Pemberton, but Kruse's first touch was too strong and the chance went begging.
The Socceroos continued to probe, earning another corner from which Mile Jedinak fired a shot on goal from inside the six-yard box, but Pemberton made a comfortable save.
Dario Vidosic dragged an effort just wide moments later and Leckie forced another save from Pemberton in the 15th minute with a header that lacked the necessary power.
The visitors finally mustered an attack and another hesitant clearance from Davidson caused a nervous moment for Postecoglou.
The contest developed into an arm wrestle with not much happening for either side until Leckie squandered the best chance of the half in the 43rd minute after some beautiful lead-up work from Milligan and Kruse.
Moments after receiving attention on his right ankle after a heavy challenge, Leckie charged onto the end of a searing cross from Kruse but he was unable to control his left-foot volley from point-blank range as an open goal beckoned.
The first chance of the second half fell to Costa Rica but Wellington Phoenix striker Kenny Cunningham miscued with only Ryan to beat from inside the penalty box.
Jedinak answered with a shot that flew just wide after a nice one-two with Kruse.
Cahill entered the fray moments later and, as he has done so often, produced the defining moment for the Socceroos.