NOT TOO SHABBY FOR 11 ROOS

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - SPORT - MARCO MONTEVERDE IN SAN PE­DRO SULA

THE Soc­ceroos were mo­ti­vated by a lack of re­spect shown to­wards them as Aus­tralia’s hopes of a fourth suc­ces­sive World Cup ap­pear­ance re­mained alive and kick­ing with a gutsy dis­play in the in­tim­i­dat­ing at­mos­phere of the Es­ta­dio Olimpico Metropoli­tano.

De­spite 40,000 fans bay­ing for their blood in a game played in muggy con­di­tions and on a ter­ri­ble sur­face, the Soc­ceroos more than held their own in their score­less draw against Hon­duras in San Pe­dro Sula.

While they could not find a valu­able away goal, the Soc­ceroos re­turn to Sydney for Wed­nes­day night’s sec­ond leg of the World Cup qual­i­fy­ing play­off con­fi­dent in their abil­ity to win and se­cure a spot at Rus­sia 2018.

Soc­ceroos coach Ange Postecoglou lamented Aus­tralia’s fail­ure to land the killer blow.

But he oth­er­wise could not fault his team’s dis­play after the Aus­tralians pro­duced the fight­ing per­for­mance re­quired fol­low­ing Hon­duran coach Jorge Luis Pinto’s pre-match warn­ing to be ready for “war”.

Pinto’s salvo came after the Hon­durans had ob­jected to their na­tion be­ing de­graded and ridiculed in Aus­tralia.

Postecoglou again apol­o­gised for that, but he also took aim at what he thought was a lo­cal cam­paign to poke fun at the Soc­ceroos, in­clud­ing the front page of a news­pa­per on the day of the game that de­scribed Aus­tralia as “11 kan­ga­roos”.

“There was some com­ments from our team com­ing from the other side that were dis­re­spect­ful as well,” he said.

“We had two play­ers (Aaron Mooy and Mat Ryan) who play in the Premier League there, we’ve got play­ers who play in first di­vi­sions in Europe and all I heard was that we had a sim­ple game plan and we don’t have any stars.

“That was our mo­ti­va­tion. We do our talk­ing when the game comes.”

De­spite the lure of a vi­tal away goal, Postecoglou elected against us­ing the ace up his sleeve in Tim Cahill, who watched the en­tire match from the bench a week after in­jur­ing his an­kle in the A-League.

“In terms of Timmy, he was fine, but I just didn’t think the game suited him,” Postecoglou said. “Look­ing at the pitch, I didn’t want to risk him un­less we had to.

“Tim and Jimmy Troisi, we were only go­ing to use them if re­quired, and I thought we were quite com­fort­able, so we saved them for the sec­ond game.”

Postecoglou made a whop­ping eight changes to the side that started in last month’s suc­cess­ful sec­ond-leg play­off clash against Syria.

In came de­fender Bai­ley Wright, wing-backs Aziz Be- hich and Josh Ris­don, mid­field­ers Mile Je­d­i­nak, Mas­simo Luongo, Aaron Mooy and Jack­son Irvine, and striker Tomi Juric.

Out went Cahill, Troisi, sus­pended pair Mark Mil­li­gan and Mathew Leckie, in­jured duo Rob­bie Kruse and Brad Smith, mid­fielder Tom Rogic and de­fender Mi­los De­genek.

Luongo and re­turn­ing skip­per Je­d­i­nak were among Aus­tralia’s best on a night where a host of play­ers stood tall for their na­tion.

There was drama in the 16th minute when ad­vanc­ing Hon­duras goal­keeper Do­nis Es­cob- er knocked over Soc­ceroos de­fender Wright.

Ref­eree Daniele Or­sato pointed to the penalty spot but his as­sis­tant put his flag up.

The pair then con­sulted, with Or­sato chang­ing his mind and award­ing Hon­duras what was thought to be a free-kick for off-side.

But Postecoglou was left scratch­ing his head when Or­sato told him a goal kick had been awarded.

The Soc­ceroos con­tin­ued to at­tack, with Juric hav­ing the best chance of the game in the 34th minute after get­ting be­hind the Hon­duran de­fence.

But with only Es­cober to beat, Juric dragged his shot wide.

While the ball bob­bled on the bumpy sur­face as Juric was about to shoot, he still should have been able to hit the tar­get at the very least.

“It terms of chances it wasn’t just Tomi Juric’s chances,” Postecoglou said.

“We had some good op­por­tu­ni­ties to put them away.

“Tomi Juric again put in an enor­mous shift.

“He works re­ally hard for us ... over­all I thought his per­for­mance was good.”

EX­TRA SPICE: Jack­son Irvine be­ing fouled; (right) Aziz Be­hich shows his frus­tra­tion; and (op­po­site page from top) Mas­simo Luongo is cut down by Emilio Iza­guirre, the Hon­duras fans make their pres­ence felt, and Tomi Juric drib­bles past Henry Figueroa. Pic­tures: AP, AFP, Getty Im­ages

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