Chile secured a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Australia in Cuiaba to move level on points with Group B leaders the Netherlands. Early strikes from Alexis Sanchez and Jorge Valdivia put the South Americans well in control and, though Tim Cahill’s header got the Socceroos back into the game, Jean Beausejour sealed victory in injury-time.
Led by a vocal support, it took just 12 minutes for Chile to break the deadlock, with a somewhat scrambled move being polished off by a familiar source. Good feet from Charles Aranguz drew Maty Ryan out of his goal, and when Eduardo Vargas’s header fell at the feet of Sanchez, the Barcelona man made no mistake.
That defensive lapse may have been playing on the minds of the Australians, as two minutes later Chile had doubled their lead through Valdivia. A burst of pace and flicked pass from Sanchez found the Palmeiras man on the edge of the area, with his lobbed effort kissing the bar on its way over Ryan.
Chile dominated possession thereafter and Australia began to look demoralised by the quick-fire double. But with ten minutes of the half remaining, the experienced Cahill halved the deficit, out-jumping Gary Medel to meet a superb deep cross from Ivan Franjic.
They nearly repeated Chile’s trick, as Leckie’s cute pass found Cahill again, though Bravo was at the ready to save well with his feet. Jason Davidson produced the heroics at the other end too, as Mauricio Isla dallied when through, allowing the left-back to make a last-ditch tackle.
Chile remained dangerous but Australia had regained their confidence, and Cahill saw a second header denied for offside after the break. Then fellow veteran Mark Bresicano went close, with his volley drawing a fine Bravo save.
The below-par Arturo Vidal departed, but Chile’s continuing threat was underlined as a defence-splitting Sanchez pass found Vargas, who nudged the ball beyond Ryan, only for Alex Wilkinson to hook off the line.
Chile probed for a goal to seal the victory, but the final ball and finish were lacking until substitute Jean Beausejour pounced on Mauricio Pinilla’s rebound to fire in from the edge of the box in stoppage-time.
PRE-MATCH: Vidal and Bresciano start. Chile’s top scorer in qualifying Arturo Vidal is deemed fit enough to start, despite undergoing surgery on his knee as recently May. As for Australia, they are also boosted by the inclusion of a doubt with Mark Bresciano shrugging off a back problem to take his place in the team.
12′ – GOAL! Chile 1-0 Australia. It’s that man Sanchez who gets the opener. Charles Aranguiz causes chaos in the box on the right and when his dinked cross is knocked down, Sanchez is on hand to coolly fire into the near post corner.
14′ – GOAL! Chile 2-0 Australia. Two in two minutes and the Socceroos have had a nightmare start. Sanchez races towards goal and picks out Valdivia on the edge of the area and he makes no mistake with a rasping shot into the top corner.
35′ – GOAL! Chile 2-1 Australia. The Socceroos are back in it. Ivan Franjic hangs a ball up to the far post from the right for Cahill who leaps highest to thump a header into the corner. The ex-Everton man rolls back the years with a trademark jump. Game on!
36′ Australia chance! Cahill breaks away again and takes a touch on the right of the area before fizzing in a shot that Claudio Bravo kicks away with his legs.
57′ GREAT SAVE! Bravo is forced to push away Bresciano’s low drive after Cahill had again caused havoc by allowing a left-wing cross to drop kindly for his teammate.
61′ – OFF THE LINE! Vargas is played in by a sensational pass by Sanchez and stabs a shot under the keeper, but Wilkinson gets back to hook it clear when it looked all set for 3-1.
90+2′ – GOAL! Chile 3-1 Australia. Chile clinch it as Wigan’s Beausejour arrows a superb 20-yard drive into the bottom corner after Pinilla’s shot was well saved by the keeper.
Can Chile shock the big two in Group B? La Roja have always been regarded as dark horses in this pool, but prior to tonight everyone was expecting Spain and Holland to come through it. Chile showed in the opening 20 minutes just why they can pull off a surprise here in Brazil – but they will need to step up it up a few gears after Australia made them sweat. Sampaoli’s men are comfortable playing in their home continent and after the holders’ heavy defeat against the Dutch, Chile’s chances have just become a whole lot stronger.
Chile have scored 3+ goals in a World Cup game for the first time since 1962.
The group containing Spain & Chile in 2010 saw just eight goals in total. Group B has already seen 10 after only 2 games
Alexis Sanchez has played a hand in seven of the last eight goals that Chile have scored (six goals, one assist).
Sanchez is the first Chilean to get a goal and an assist in a single World Cup game.
Tim Cahill has scored four goals in his last four appearances for the Socceroos.
That was only Chile’s third win in 18 World Cup outings since they finished third at the 1962 World Cup.
Stats courtesy of Opta
Man of the Match
Alexis Sanchez (Chile): La Roja flew out of the traps and it was Sanchez who shone brightest. A clinical finish and a neat assist saw him do the majority of the damage. He remained a threat in the second period when Australia pressed and could well be a star of this tournament if Chile can spring a surprise at the expense of Spain and Holland.
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