Kewell sends Aussies into second round | india | Hindustan Times
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Kewell sends Aussies into second round

Australia fought back twice to advance to the last sixteen of the World Cup with a pulsating 2-2 draw against Croatia.

india Updated: Jun 23, 2006 03:14 IST

Australia fought back twice to advance to the last sixteen of the World Cup with a pulsating 2-2 draw against Croatia in Stuttgart on Thursday.

Liverpool star Harry Kewell, the man of the match, sent the Australians into the second round for the first time in only their second finals' in 32 years with the equaliser 10 minutes from fulltime.

Passions overflowed in the final minutes with referee Graham Poll issuing red cards to Croatia's Dario Simic and Josip Simunic and Australia's Brett Emerton, who now will miss Australia's second round match with Italy on Monday.

Kewell saved the Australians from elimination after a horrendous blunder by goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac had gifted the Croatians their second goal 13 minutes after halftime.

Kalac, one of six Australian players with Croatian background, had an eventful match picking the ball out of his own net after just two minutes off a free kick and then fumbling Niko Kovac's volley to allow the ball to go over the line.

Kalac was a surprise selection by coach Guus Hiddink ahead of regular keeper Mark Schwarzer, who had kept goal in the other two group games against Japan and Brazil.

The Australians went into the final group match two points ahead of Croatia and only needed a draw to reach the last sixteen.

Australia, galvanised by the coaching of Dutchman Hiddink, showed incredible tenacity to fight back from being behind twice in the match before 56,000 fans.

The Aussies recovered from the shock of a second minute goal off a Darijo Srna free-kick to take the game to the 1998 semi-finalists in a dramatic opening half.

Mark Viduka chopped down Niko Kovac just outside the area and Srna beat Kalac with a swinging free kick to his right.

It was Croatia's first goal of the tournament and gave them a huge lift so early in the match they had to win.

But the Australians recovered their poise and controlled the game for most of the opening half having several scoring chances before Craig Moore levelled in the 38th minute.

Referee Poll gave a penalty when Stjepan Tomas handled the ball in the area under Tim Cahill's challenge and Moore left goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa stranded to equalise.

The Socceroos thought they should have had a seventh-minute penalty when Australian-raised defender Josip Simunic appeared to foul Viduka but Poll ignored the Australian skipper's pleas for a spot-kick.

Cahill had a header saved by Pletikosa on the half-hour and a minute later the goalkeeper had to dive to divert a rasping Harry Kewell left-foot volley away for a corner.

Poll gave Croatia six yellow cards and Australia two, both by Emerton.