Holman header secures Australia progression
By Martin Petty
BANGKOK, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Brett Holman headed home a late winner to send Australia into the next round of Asia's World Cup qualifying on Tuesday, snatching a 1-0 victory that put Thailand in real danger of missing the 2014 finals in Brazil.
Holman converted a Brett Emerton cross from close range 14 minutes from time to win Group D with an uninspiring victory over a Thai side that battled to stay in the competition but paid a heavy price for missed chances.
Australia struggled in the Bangkok heat in front of a packed and hostile crowd and a team that stifled their attempts to control the game.
Diminutive Thai keeper Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool was in fine form and was unlucky to finally be beaten, venturing far off his line to collect a shower of Emerton crosses and keep lofty striker Joshua Kennedy at bay.
Australia have 12 points with one match left to play, ahead of Saudi Arabia who meet Oman later on Tuesday.
"It was a hard-fought victory against a very organised team that prepared well," Australia coach Holger Osieck told reporters. "We knew what to expect and we persevered in what was a very tough game."
With three defeats from five games, Thailand were left hoping the Saudis draw later and the last round of matches go their way so they can grab second spot and advance to the final 10.
"It was just one mistake and they scored," Thai coach Winfried Schaefer said. "We lacked that killer instinct."
Datsakorn Thonglao directed most of the Thai attacks, floating the ball out to the wings and to feed pacy winger Suree Sukha, who could have scored twice.
Australia were without the injured Harry Kewell and Kennedy proved largely ineffective, spurning a chance in the 28th minute when he bent down low to nod an Emerton cross into the hands of Sinthaweechai.
Suree almost broke the deadlock for Thailand in the 35th minute, latching on to a perfect lofted ball from Datsakorn but blasting over the bar from six metres with only keeper Mark Schwarzer to beat.
Australia came out fighting after the break, with Kennedy squandering a chance on 55 minutes. Their moves on goal finally paid off when Holman took advantage of a slack defence to clinch the winner.
Osieck commended his players but turned prickly when asked if the victory was fortunate.
"I want to know why you say fortunate," he snapped at an Australian reporter. "They missed their chances and we played well enough to win." (Editing by Mark Meadows)