Australia draw with Korea Republic in final qualifying game
Australia's U-23 national team have secured their 2020 AFC U-23 Championship place after playing out a 2-2 draw with the Korea Republic on Tuesday night.
Needing a win to leapfrog the Koreans into top spot in Group H, Australia made a dominant start and led 2-0 thanks to a pair of well-taken goals from Nicholas D’Agostino.
But Korea Republic scored either side of the break to snatch a draw to finish ahead of Graham Arnold’s side on goal difference.
Australia had to wait on other results across the groups, with a match equalisation method needing to be applied, to determine which of the four best second-placed teams progressed to the AFC U-23 Championship in Thailand next year.
It took less than 16 minutes for Australia to take the lead, superbly set-up by Lachlan Wales.
The Melbourne City attacker showed great skill to beat his defender on the right before his low cross was neatly swept in by D’Agostino.
And just eight minutes later the Brisbane Roar striker doubled Australia’s advantage.
This time Alex Gersbach was the architect, scorching past his marker on the left and playing D’Agostino into the box and despite a tough angle, his powerful strike was too hot for the keeper to handle.
Korea Republic hit back a couple of minutes later through Cho Young Wook but the setback did not halt Australia’s momentum.
Only a world-class save denied Reno Piscopo on 27 minutes, while Riley McGree headed agonisingly wide just before the break after superb build-up play from Nathaniel Atkinson, D’Agostino and Wales.
The Koreans pushed hard for an equaliser in the second half and were back on level terms just after the hour mark through substitute Lee Donggyeong’s powerful drive.
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Neither side seemed intent to push for a winner in the closing stages ensuring they finish the tournament unbeaten and equal on seven points, with Korea Republic’s superior goal difference enough to hand them top spot.