DOHA, Jan 10, 2011 (AFP) - Australia powered past India 4-0 and 10-man South Korea saw off plucky Bahrain 2-1 on Monday as two of the favourites to win the Asian Cup got their campaigns off to winning starts.
After Saudi Arabia and Japan, two of the other teams tipped to go far in Doha, stumbled on Sunday, the Socceroos showed them how it should be done with a commanding Group C performance that barely required them to break sweat.
But at a less than half-full Al Gharafa Stadium -- something which will embarrass the controversial 2022 World Cup hosts -- the Koreans needed the aid of a mighty deflection to break Bahrain's stubborn first-half resistance.
|South Korea's players pose for a group picture before the start of their 2011 Asian Cup group C football match against Bahrain in the Qatari capital Doha on January 10, 2011. AFP|
And the Koreans, who had dominated for long periods, were left hanging on after Bahrain pulled a goal back from the penalty spot five minutes from time after defender Kwak Tae-Hwi brought down Abdulla Al-Dakeel inside the box.
Kwak was also dismissed in the incident as the game unexpectedly reached a grandstand finale.
Everton star Tim Cahill, playing as a lone striker, was the pick of the Australians, bagging a brace in a comfortable win over a young India team who are expected to be the whipping boys of the group.
He got the opener in the 11th minute from close range before former Liverpool man Harry Kewell made it 2-0 14 minutes later.
Brett Holman added a third on the stroke of half-time before Cahill completed the demolition in the second period.
Australian coach Holger Osieck was happy with the performance, which was in start contrast to their sticky start four years ago, when the Socceroos drew with Oman and then lost to eventual winners Iraq.
The Australians squeezed through to the knock-out stages back then by thrashing Thailand 4-0, but went out on penalties to Japan in the quarters.
"It was very important to get a good start, to find our rhythm, to get a performance together," said the German.
"From my point of view, it was a good game. We played technically very well in the first half.
"We scored four goals, which is very positive and encouraging. It should give us confidence for the next games to come."
Australia face the Koreans on January 14 in one of the ties of the group stages. It could also determine who tops Group C.
Despite losing, India's English coach Bob Houghton applauded his young team, who barely had a single sniff of goal in the whole 90 minutes.
"We played a very good team today. It is not by fortune that Australia are number one in Asia," he said.
"But our boys stuck to their task, we kept our shape and discipline. We were also unlucky because I think the first goal was clearly offside.
"My players though will learn from this. No one likes to lose 4-0, but it was a good experience."
Bahrain kept the Koreans, World Cup finalists, at bay until five minutes before half-time, when Koo Ja-Cheol's shot deflected in.
Koo completed his brace seven minutes into the second half, side-footing into an empty net from a matter of yards after the goalkeeper had done well to claw out a dipping effort from South Korea right-back Cha Du-Ri.
Their resolve broken, Bahrain began to leave gaps at the back and Cha almost made it 3-0 after striding into space on the right but his left-foot shot did not have sufficient curl to bend inside the left-hand post.
Kwak looked bemused as referee Abdullah Mohamed Al Hilali showed him the red card with five minutes to play, but he undoubtedly clipped Al Dakeel's heels as the substitute raced into the box.
Faouzi Aaish duly netted from the penalty spot but the Koreans held on.