Australia World Cup dream lives on despite Martin Boyle penalty miss
After a goalless two hours, which Australia dominated, the dreams of former Hibs trio Boyle, Jackson Irvine and Jamie Maclaren plus Kye Rowles and Nathaniel Atkinson of Hearts was decided from the spot.
The shoot-out began with Boyle’s effort saved by Pedro Galleses, but after six kicks each substitute goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne was the Socceroos hero, saving from Alex Valera after some mind games to delay the spot-kick. He had been brought on in a bold move, replacing regular number one Mat Ryan for the shoot-out.
It proved decisive and a strong SPFL presence is heading for Qatar through Graham Arnold’s squad.
He included former St Mirren man Aaron Mooy in midfield and Nathaniel Atkinson at right-back. The Hearts defender, alongside future Tynecastle team-mate Kye Rowles in defence, had been a source of selection debate after facing difficulties against UAE in the semi-final, but his coach kept faith in Atkinson. His evening though was no less tricky in the final, facing up Christian Cueva and subject of an early booking that hung over him for more than three-quarters of the match.
The first half though, ended scoreless though the Socceroos had the better of the attacking play, anchored by former SPFL players Mooy and Jackson Irvine marshalling the midfield and allowing Martin Boyle to set the early pace. He persistently tested the Peruvian defence with angled runs from wide on the right and dangerous deliveries – one was almost turned in by Mitchell Duke for a deserved lead - and the route looked Australia's most obvious source of a goal.
Set-pieces also threatened Pedro Gallese and Rowles’ defensive partner Bailey Wright went close shortly before the interval, but hopes on both side hung in the balance in an increasingly nervy play-off. There was to be no breakthrough though and Peru improved as the extra-time period progressed. Edison Flores hit the upright late in the second period, and as the match edged towards penalties Arnold’s bold substitution spared Boyle’s blushes and sent the Socceroos through and into a World Cup section with Denmark, Tunisia, and holders France in November.
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