Two stunning free kicks from Liverpool’s Jake Brimmer, and a well-taken brace from Cameron Joice, secured Australia's 4-2 victory over Japan in a pulsating AFC U-16 Championship clash on Wednesday night.
The two teams went into the match assured of a place in the final eight, and were sitting equal on points and goal difference when they entered Bangkok’s Muangthong Stadium.
With Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou watching from the stands, Brimmer – who signed a three-year deal at Anfield earlier in the year – got the ball rolling for the Joeys on 14 minutes with an audacious free kick.
Joice then calmly doubled the advantage of 24 minutes, exploiting a goalkeeping howler, before Japan clawed one back two minutes later courtesy of midfielder Sasaki Takumi.
The Joey's conceded the bulk of possession to their opponents leading into half-time but managed to hold their lead.
After the break Brimmer had his brace – a sizzling free kick into the top right corner to restore the Aussies two-goal buffer on 59 minutes.
But Yasui Takuya had Japan right back in it firing home after some nice interplay on the edge of the box to make it 3-2.
Unmarked substitute Suga Daiki then had a chance to grab the equaliser on 79 minutes but headed wide before Brimmer outstripped his defender, moments later, to seal the result.
The Joey's triumph brings an end to Australia's 14-game winless streak at all levels against Japan.
Coach Tony Vidmar told the AFC website his side was "outplayed".
"We had a win, but I think we probably learnt a lot more from Japan as they are a very good footballing side," Vidmar said.
"They keep possession well and their decision making and game awareness is very good and that is somewhere we would like to get to.
"For us, credit to the boys as they worked hard, but we would like to start to produce good football.
"We played a very good team and I think we were outplayed. There is no hiding behind that. We are still a long way off from where we can be and we will work with the players to get the best possible results.
"Japan have come a long way in 20 years and we are still in our infancy in our youth development and where it should be, so we should look and see what we can do better."
Sitting top of Group B, the Joey's now face the runner-up of Group A – most likely Malaysia or Thailand – on Saturday.
The top four teams in the championship will represent Asia at the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile.
Pic: FFA1 comment