Melbourne Heart FC midfielder Stefan Mauk played a key role in the Olyroos' 1-0 win over Kuwait in the opening game of Group C at the AFC U-22 Championships in Oman.
Melbourne Heart FC midfielder Stefan Mauk played a crucial role in the Olyroos' 1-0 win over Kuwait in the opening game of Group C at the AFC U-22 Championships in Oman.
Mauk, who alongside Melbourne Heart defender David Vrankovic, is representing the Olyroos at the AFC Championships, set up the game's only goal for Ryan Kitto at Royal Police Stadium in Muscat on Sunday night.
Right winger Kitto slid the ball under Kuwait goalkeeper Sulaiman Abdulghafoor midway through the second half to give the Olyroos three points as they pick up valuable international experience on the road to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Read the full match report, below
Going into the match, Aurelio Vidmar handed starting debuts not only to Kitto but also goalkeeper John Hall with Connor Chapman taking the captaincy role. Dylan Tombides returned to an Australian national team for the first time since the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico in 2011.
Kuwait started the match the stronger and controlled much of the first period of the game with a high tempo pressing game, and as early as the 10th minute defender Fahad Al Hajeri found the ball at his feet inside the penalty area, but saw his effort smothered by the Olyroos goalkeeper John Hall.
Five minutes later, the Olyroos had their best chance of the half as Kitto picked out an unmarked Dylan Tombides with a cross from the right flank. Tombides goal-bound header needed a flying save from the Kuwaiti goalkeeper Sulaiman Abdulghafoor, diving to his right.
With both sides struggling to take a firm grip on the midfield, set-pieces looked the most likely source of goals with Sultan Al Enezi coming close with a header from a Zaben Al Enezi free-kick in the 17th minute that flashed narrowly over.
Just after the half-hour mark, Kuwait came even closer with another deadball situation. This time, Faisal Al Harbi took responsibility and his swirling right-footed shot from the left side of the penalty area beat Hall but not the woodwork, ricocheting off the crossbar.
The second half saw the Olyroos take control of the game dominating possession for long periods of time and putting some quality passages of football together.
In the 52nd minute Hagi Gligor had the ball in the net only to see the referee-s assistant to disallow the goal for offside.
But the chances kept coming, a minute later Kitto made a great run towards box and then laid the ball off to Mauk, whose resulting shot hit the crossbar and went out for a goal-kick.. In the 65th minute Kuwait had their best chance to open the scoring with a blazing free kick on edge of penalty box that cleared the wall and hit the left post and came back into play. The Olyroos were able to clear the ball and diffuse the situation.
The Only goal of the match came shortly afterwards after Corey Brown made a great run down the left and then played the ball into Mauk.
Mauk then rolled a pass to the feet of Kitto inside the penalty box, who finished with his left foot into the bottom right corner past the diving Kuwait keeper.
After the match, Olyroos Head Coach Aurelio Vidmar was pleased with his team-s first up effort of the tournament.
“I-m very happy with the win as, although we started the game quite strongly in the first 15 minutes, we lost our way for much of the first half,” said Vidmar.
“In the second half we controlled the game for long periods and dominated possession. The players were nervous at the beginning, but once that period was over their confidence grew.
“Ryan Kitto was a different player after the goal. There were a lot of good performances all over the park. Our defence was very good and the goalkeeper and central midfielders worked very hard,” concluded Vidmar
The Olyroos will next face Iran on Tuesday and then Japan in their final group match on Thursday as Vidmar continues to focus on preparing the squad for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games cycle.
Melbourne Heart's David Vrankovic was an unused substitute during Sunday's match.
Match Details Olyroos 1 (Ryan Kitto 70-) Kuwait 0 Royal Oman Police Stadium, Muscat, OMAN Referee: MA NING (CHINA PR) Assistant Referees: JAKHONGIR SAIDOV (UZBEKISTAN) & CHYNYBEKOV ZAMIRBEK (KYRGYZSTAN) Fourth Official: LIU KWOK MAN (HONG KONG) Crowd: 500
Olyroos line-up: 4.Connor CHAPMAN (C) (2. Jason GERIA 61-), 5.Corey BROWN, 7.Stefan MAUK, 9.Dylan TOMBIDES (23. Peter SKAPETIS 61-), 13.Scott GALLOWAY, 14.Nicholas ANSELL, 17.Jake BARKER-DAISH, 18.John HALL (gk), 19.Hagi GLIGOR, 20.Christopher IKONOMIDIS (21. Andrew HOOLE 82-), 22.Ryan KITTO, Unused Substitutes: 1.Aaron LENNOX (gk), 3.Curtis GOOD, 6.Joshua BRILLANTE, 8.Ryan EDWARDS, 10.Adam TAGGART, 11.Connor PAIN, 12.Jack DUNCAN (gk), 15.David VRANKOVIC, 16.Reece CAIRA, Yellow Cards: 20.Christopher IKONOMIDIS 18-, 4.Connor CHAPMAN 36-, 18.John HALL 82-
Kuwait Line-up: 3.Ahmad RASHED, 5.Fahad ALHAJERI, 8.Ahmad ALDHEFIRI (7.OMAR ALHEBAITER 85-), 9.Zaben ALENEZI , 10.Faisal ALHARBI (19.YOUSIF ALRASHIDI 75-), 11.Sultan ALENEZI , 13.Abdualrhman ALENEZI , 15.Shereedah ALSHEREEDAH , 18.Adal MATAR (C), 20.Khaled EBRAHIM, 22.Sulaiman ABDULGHAFOOR Unused Substitutes: 1.Abdulrahman ALHESAINAN (gk), 2.Sami ALSANEA, 4.Fahad ALMEJMED, 6.Saoud ALANSARI, 12.Hamad ALHARBI, 14.Mohammad ALFARESI, 16.Faisal ALAZEMI, 17.Saad ALWALEED, 21.Abdullah, 23.Saud ALJENAIE (gk) Yellow Cards: 20. Khaled EBRAHIM 34-,18. Adal MATAR (C) 50-,3. Ahmad RASHED 77-, 5. Fahad ALHAJERI 90+4-