Group A: Match 10 - Australia thumps Fiji 6-0
Dylan MacAllister starred with a hat trick with a brace to Brett Holman and one to Carl Valeri rounding out the scoring.
Australia's much improved display will give them tremendous heart coming into Monday's first playoff with New Zealand at Parramatta Stadium, after the All Whites nudged Vanuatu 3-2 in Auckland tonight.
Fiji was by far the most enterprising opponent the Australians encountered in the tournament and the 6-0 score line did not do Billy Singh's men justice.
The performance that Australia's football fans had been waiting for arrived in the first half. Or, at the very least, was most evident in the opening quarter. They oozed confidence on the ball and looked sharp off it, despite the slippery conditions due to a savage storm moments before kick off.
The match opener came after just five minutes when Valeri rocketed home a loose ball following a Luke Wilkshire corner. The Inter Milan midfielder thundered his right-footed effort past a sea of players and into the net to give the home side a priceless early advantage.
Things went from bad to worse for the Fijians when Holman doubled the Australian's lead only seconds later. The Excelsior striker was the beneficiary of an unselfish pass from Alex Brosque, after the Marconi marksman intercepted a poor clearance from Fiji sweeper Pene Erenio.
At 2-0, any chance of Singh's men advancing from the group seemed unlikely. Australia's early goals were the perfect remedy to curb the enthusiasm of their opponents, who given a good start would have posed a much greater threat.
There was no respite from the home side in the second half. Within ten minutes Holman had netted his second after some fantastic lead up work. Wilkshire released Ahmad Elrich on the right flank, who then put in a low cross to MacAllister, who showed great awareness to dummy and leave Holman exposed at the far post. The Australian number 9 made no mistake in slotting past Simione Tamanisau to register his fourth goal of the tournament.
Frank Farina's men continued to dominate proceedings until MacAllister took control of the last ten minutes. In that time, the former Joey found the back of the net three times, all with his head, a just reward for a strong performance in the preceding eighty minutes.
The first of MacAllister's trio arrived when the big striker headed home a cross from substitute Ryan Griffiths.
His second came straight from a corner and his third, the pick of the bunch, was scored from a cross from Valeri in which the Northern Spirit marksman timed an athletic dive to perfection, leaving the Fiji custodian with no chance.
Farina felt contented with what many agreed was a much-improved performance from his charges.
We got off to a real flyer tonight," said Farina.
They did it for ninety minutes tonight and I was very pleased with the way they played.
With a torrid preliminary campaign now behind them, in which the under 23's conceded no goals and scored 26, Farina now has his eyes firmly set on the two-legged playoff with traditional rivals New Zealand.
"They'll be difficult because they always lift against Australia, irrespective of what level or age-group it is," said Farina.
"New Zealand will pose a bigger problem than any other team we've played.
Fiji technical director Tony Buesnel was full of praise for Farina's men, but disappointed with his team's performance, which was the climax of a monumental preparation campaign.
"I think the game was a true indication of the motivation Australia have got," said Buesnel.
"But we can't go into games and commit three or four very simple errors, as we did in the first five minutes, and ever expect to be competitive in a game.
"Some of the mistakes our guys made you'd like to say is a part of their learning curve, but at this level, it's a bit more than that.
As in direct accordance with his performances throughout the tournament, the under 23 captain was professional is surmising what was a pleasing night for his troops.
"We've still got a job to do and that's to qualify for Athens," said Milicevic.
Match 10: Australia vs Fiji / Statistical Review
Full-time score: 6-0 (Australia)
Half-time score: 2-0 (Australia)
Date/Time: Thursday, 22 January - 7:30pm (AEST)
Scorers: Australia - (15) Carl Valeri 5'; Brett Holman 6', 54'; (12) Dylan Macallister 78', 87', 89'
Cautions: Australia - (12) Dylan Macallister 28'
Weather: Overcast, warm
Crowd attendance: 2,000
Referee: Neil Fox (New Zealand)
Assistant Referee 1: Paul Dunham (New Zealand)
Assistant Referee 2: Wayne Stapley (New Zealand)
Fourth Official: Derek Rugg (New Zealand)
Match Commissioner: `Ahongalu Fusimalohi (Tonga)
Referee Inspector: Barry Such (Australia)
Team Line-ups (& Substitutes)
1. Eugen-Josip Galekovic (GK)
2. Jade North
3. Shane Cansdell-Sheriff
4. Ljubo Milicevic (c)
6. David Tarka
9. Brett Holman
10. Luke Wilkshire (-72')
11. Alex Brosque (-64')
12. Dylan Macallister
14. Ahmad Elrich (-64')
15. Carl Valeri
18. Michael Turnbull (RGK)
5. Jonathan McKain
7. Matthew McKay
8. Ryan Griffiths (+64')
13. Michael Beauchamp
16. Michael Thwaite
17. Anthony Pelikan
19. Nicholas Carle (+72')
20. Spase Dilevski (+64')
Coach: Frank Farina
1. Simione Tamanisau (gk)
2. Lorima Dau (-64')
5. Luke Vidovi
6. Jone Vesikula
7. Pene Erenio
9. Thomas Vulivuli
10. Veresa Toma (c)
13. Taniela Waqa
14. Osea Vakatalesau (-76')
15. Salesh Kumar
18. Laisiasa Gataurua (-85')
3. Ratu Marika Rodu
4. Alvin Avinesh (+85')
8. Waisake Sabutu (+76')
11. Jesoni Takala (+64')
12. Esala Ali
16. Petero Dauniseka
17. Samuela Vula
19. Nicholas Lawrence
20. Afroz Nabi (RGK)
Coach : Billy Singh
Last Modified on 25/01/2004 13:40