Photo: Chilean world cup
Chile lost steam after scoring two goals in an electrifying first 15 minutes, but held on for a 3-1 victory over a tenacious Australian side in Group B action of the 2014 World Cup.
In the 12th minute of Friday night’s match, Charles Aranguiz dribbled niftily in the penalty area before lofting a ball that Australian midfielder Mile Jedinak tried to clear but instead headed directly to Alexis Sanchez, who fired at close range past goalkeeper Maty Ryan.
Sanchez, also a forward for FC Barcelona, then outmaneuvered several defenders two minutes later before passing the ball to midfielder Jorge Valdivia, who sent a high shot from the top of the penalty box over Ryan’s outstretched arms for a 2-0 lead.
But Chile then took the foot off the accelerator and allowed Australia to work its way into the match at Arena Pantanal in this western Brazilian city.
Forward Mathew Leckie fired a shot way off the mark in the 23rd minute, but 12 minutes later Ivan Franjic centered the ball from the far right and Tim Cahill used his height to connect on a powerful header past net minder Claudio Bravo to trim Chile’s lead to 2-1.
Australia then continued to heap on the pressure late in the first half, although Bravo used his feet to fend off a shot by Leckie and preserve Chile’s lead at halftime.
The South Americans lost the possession battle early in the second half and allowed Australia some scoring chances, although the Socceroos had a goal off the head of Cahill waived off for an offside violation in the 53rd minute and Bravo made a save on a point-blank attempt by midfielder Mark Bresciano four minutes later.
Australia aggressively sought the tying goal in the closing minutes of the match, but Chile was able to mount a counter-attack and finally seal the victory with a powerful left-footed strike from Jean Beausejour in injury time.
The win put Chile in second place in Group B round-robin play behind the Netherlands, which pummeled defending World Cup champion Spain 5-1 earlier Friday.
On Wednesday, Chile will take on Spain at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium and Australia will square off against the Netherlands at Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre.