GAME ON

Our big­gest game since this his­toric mo­ment in 2005 It is now about pride in the Aussie jersey The fi­nal turn on the road to Rus­sia For­get the is­sues with Ange Or even Timmy’s dodgy an­kle The 0-0 draw in Hon­duras was a mighty ef­fort Now the stage is all s

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - SUNDAY SPORTS - IN SAN PE­DRO SULA

SOCCEROOS coach Ange Postecoglou has kept his great­est ace up his sleeve for Wed­nes­day night’s sec­ond­leg World Cup qual­i­fy­ing play­off against Hon­duras in Syd­ney.

De­spite the lure of what would have been a vi­tal away goal, Postecoglou had Tim Cahill watch from the side­lines yes­ter­day morn­ing.

Cahill saw his team­mates more than hold their own in a 0-0 draw in the first leg, de­spite 40,000 fans bay­ing for their blood in a game played on a ter­ri­ble sur­face at the Es­ta­dio Olimpico Metropoli­tano in San Pe­dro Sula.

“In terms of Timmy, he was fine but I just didn’t think the game suited him,” Postecoglu said of Aus­tralia’s all- time top scorer, who is nurs­ing an an­kle in­jury sus­tained in the A- League.

“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.”

The Socceroos flew out for Syd­ney con­fi­dent in their abil­ity to win at home and qual­ify for their fourth con­sec­u­tive World Cup ap­pear­ance, at Rus­sia 2018. While he lamented his team’s in­abil­ity to land a killer blow in Hon­duras yes­ter­day, Postecoglou oth­er­wise could not fault the fight­ing per­for­mance, es­pe­cially af­ter Hon­duras coach Jorge Luis Pinto’s pre­match warn­ing that the Aus­tralians should be ready to “go to war”.

And the Socceroos coach pushed back at a cam­paign to poke fun at his team, when a lo­cal news­pa­per de­scribed them as “11 kan­ga­roos”.

“We had two play­ers (Aaron Mooy and Mat Ryan) who play in the (English) 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,” Postecoglou said.

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

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

In came de­fender Bai­ley Wright, wing-backs Aziz Be­hich and Josh Ris­don, mid­field­ers Mile Je­d­i­nak, Mas­simo Luongo, 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 in a game in which a host of play­ers stood

tall. There was drama in the 16th minute when ad­vanc­ing Hon­duras goal­keeper Do­nis Es­cober knocked over Socceroos de­fender Wright.

Ref­eree Daniele Or­sato pointed ed to the penalty spot, but his as­sis­tant put his flag up. The pair then con­sulted, and Or­sato changed his mind and awarded Hon­duras what was thought ought to be a free-kick for off­side.

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

The Socceroos con­tin­ued to o at­tack, and Juric had the best chance ce of the game in the 34th minute af­ter r get­ting be­hind the Hon­duran de­fence. ce.

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.

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

Aus­tralia's Mile Je­d­i­nak com­petestes with An­thony Lozano, (right) Tomi Juric and (above) Hon­duras keeper Do­nis Es­cober makes a save. Pic­tures: AP

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