Tim Cahill's audacious goal helps Australia to Asian Cup semifinals
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Tim Cahill set the Asian Cup quarterfinals alight with a spectacular overhead scissor kick and clinched a 2-0 win against China with a header, helping tournament host Australia reach the semifinals in the continental championship.
As the 35-year-old New York Red Bulls Designated Player has so often done, Cahill delivered for his country in its time of need, scoring twice in a 20-minute period after halftime. Australia, the 2011 finalists, will face either defending champion Japan or the United Arab Emirates next week for a spot in the final.
With the Socceroos dominating the contest, Cahill produced an effort to rival his stunning goal against the Netherlands at last year's World Cup in Brazil.
He latched on to an Ivan Franjic header in the 48th-minute and then performed an acrobatic, overhead kick, directing the ball past helpless goalkeeper Wang Lei.
Man-of-the-match Cahill soaked up the roar from the 46,067-strong crowd as he ran across the pitch to celebrate yet another goal for Australia.
"Someone asked me whether I'd scored one like that before and I said yes, against Chelsea away (playing for Everton in the English Premier League)," Cahill said. "It's instinct. The World Cup was probably a fluke, like people are saying, and today was probably a fluke again.
"But it's never been about me, it's been about the team and the amount of work and effort we put in months ago. When I said I really believed in this team, I meant it."
Cahill was about eight yards out in the 65th minute when he powered a header into the net from a perfect cross by Jason Davidson. Cahill was given a rousing cheer when he finally left the field in the 80th minute, replaced by Mark Milligan.
"The reason Timmy does so fantastically well for us is that we manage him really well," Australia coach Ange Postecoglou said. "We rested him against South Korea (Cahill came off the bench) because we knew this game was going to be important.
"In the penalty box he's still world-class. He's still every dangerous. But I don't need to add anything to Tim Cahill's career — it's spelled out clearly for everybody. As I keep telling him, who knows, the best might be ahead of him still."
Postecoglou praised the efforts of Cahill, captain Mile Jedinak in his return from an ankle injury and veteran midfielder Mark Bresciano, who was starting for the first time at the 2015 Asian Cup.
Bresciano was excellent in dead-ball situations and the midfielder's calmness and composure helped the Socceroos settle in a high-pressure knockout match.
The Australia-China match was the second quarterfinal of the night. South Korea had a 2-0 win over Uzbekistan in the earlier quarterfinal, with Son Heung-min scoring twice in extra time at Melbourne.
China coach, Frenchman Alain Perrin, said "of course my players are very disappointed ... it means our Asian Cup journey is finished."
A physical China lineup opened quickly, catching Australia off guard on the counter-attack as forward Wu Lei tore through the defense.
Wu could have easily scored in the 14th minute if not for a tackle from Alex Wilkinson, who replaced the suspended Matthew Spiranovic in one of seven changes to the Socceroos' starting side which went down 1-0 to South Korea in Brisbane last Saturday.
There are two quarterfinals Friday, with Japan against the United Arab Emirates and 2007 champion Iraq against Iran.