Socceroos blow three-goal halftime lead in loss

JULIAN DRAPE
Last updated 11:36 06/03/2014
Edison Mendez
Getty Images
MATCH-WINNER: Ecuador's Edison Mendez (16) celebrates his match-winning 90th minute goal to beat the Socceroos 4-3 at The Den in London.

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The Socceroos have suffered a heart-breaking last-minute 4-3 loss to Ecuador in London after going into halftime with a three-goal lead against the South Americans.

Tim Cahill became Australia's all-time scorer in the first 45 minutes and it looked like coach Ange Postecoglou could maintain a winning record after the Socceroos beat Costa Rica in November.

But it went horribly wrong in the second half with keeper Mitch Langerak sent off following a crude tackle reducing the Aussies to 10 men.

Australia started well with new captain Mile Jedinak marshalling the troops in midfield.

The Crystal Palace captain had the first shot on goal from a free after five minutes and a minute later Cahill had a header stopped by the Ecuadorean keeper.

Then, at the eight-minute mark, the striker made history by scoring his 30th international goal to become Australia's all-time top scorer, edging ahead of Damian Mori.

Seven minutes later, Gabriel Achillier pulled Cahill's shirt in the box. Jedinak slotted home the resulting penalty to put Australia 2-0 up in the last match before Postecoglou names his 30-man squad for the World Cup in Brazil.

Cahill scored again with a header at the 31-minute mark to make it 3-0.

The striker finished off a perfect cross from Tommy Oar, who'd made a blistering run down the left side.

Curtis Good, the youngest player in the squad at just 20, started in defence gaining his first Socceroos cap and proving Postecoglou is serious about blooding a new "golden generation".

Good played alongside Matt Spriranovic with both putting in solid performances making a return for former captain Lucas Neill less likely.

The centre back pair didn't play against Costa Rica in November but came in for the overlooked Neill and injured Rhys Williams.

Brisbane Roar defender Ivan Franjic was given the nod for the right back role ahead of veteran Luke Wilkshire.

Mat Ryan went a long way to securing the spot of Australia's leading gloveman heading into Brazil with a near-flawless display in the first 45 minutes making numerous saves.

After halftime, Ecuador came out with a lot more spark and were duly rewarded 10 minutes in when Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia set up Fidel Martinez.

Minutes later, Langerak, who'd came on for Ryan, was shown a red card after rushing off his line and making a crude tackle. Ecuador's Segundo Castillo made no mistake, pushing the penalty beyond third keeper Brad Jones.

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Suddenly it was 3-2 and Australia were a man down.

Postecoglou brought on Alex Wilkinson for Good, Dario Vidosic for Oar and Oliver Bozanic for Cahill as there was a growing sense that it was just a matter of time before the South Americans equalised.

They did when a Jedinak mistake in midfield eventually led to an Enner Valencia goal.

With just a minute left and a draw looking likely, disaster struck for the Socceroos when poor defending gifted Edison Mendez the winning goal.

One of few positive moments for the Australians in the second half came when 21-year-old Massimo Luongo made his debut coming on for the captain.

- AAP

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