Lewis Miller: Heartbreak for Hibs defender and Australia Under-23s as they suffer Asian Cup semi defeat
Lewis Miller and the Australia Under-23 team will face hosts Uzbekistan or Japan in the third-place match in the AFC U-23 Asian Cup competition after losing their semi-final against Saudi Arabia.
Less than 48 hours after the Socceroos secured their place in the 2022 World Cup, the Olyroos were unable to bring further joy to the nation as two key events in the first half of the last-four encounter at the Pakhtakor Stadium in Tashkent gave Tony Vidmar’s side a mountain to climb.
An early substitution for the Saudis saw Haitham Asiri leave the field of play and Al-Wedah winger Hussain Ahmed Al Eisa take his place.
The replacement scored after barely ten minutes on the pitch, converting Al-Fateh striker Firas Al-Buraikan’s pass for a 20th-minute opener.
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Tyrese Francois might have levelled on the half-hour mark but his effort hit the crossbar.
Things went from bad to worse for Australia when Accrington Stanley defender Jay Rich-Baghuelou was shown a straight red card six minutes before the interval.
Vidmar reacted by bringing on defender Jordan Courtney-Perkins for Kusini Yengi to shore up the defence and on the hour mark he made a triple substitution with Miller, Alou Kuol, and Lachlan Brook making way for Joshua Rawlins, Patrick Wood, and Patrick Yazbek but a little over ten minutes later the Saudis extended their lead, Al-Buraikan notching a second assist as Ayman Yahya beat Joe Gauci.
Incredibly, in 12 minutes of injury time, Ramy Najjarine and Abdullah Radif both missed penalties, Gauci saving Radif’s effort and Nawaf Al-Aqidi denying the Western Sydney Wanderers midfielder.
Australia will go again on Saturday as they eye third in the competition.