Tim Cahill and Brett Holman scored second half goals to give Australia a 2-1 victory over Serbia in their final World Cup Group D match on Wednesday but the victory was not enough to stop the Socceroos going out of the competition.
Serbia, who beat Germany 1-0 in their last match, lost their chances of advancing and finished bottom of the group.
Cahill, who missed his side’s last match after being sent off against Germany, headed home a Luke Wilkshire cross from the right flank in the 69th minute to give Australia the lead against the run of play.
Brett Holman then added a second with a fine long-range strike in the 73th minute.
Serbia poured forward in the last few minutes and pulled a goal back in the 84th minute. A long-range shot from Zoran Tosic was spilled by Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, leaving Marko Pantelic with the simple task of tapping in the rebound.
Two minutes later it looked as if Pantelic had equalised but his effort was ruled out for offside.
The Serbians had dominated the first half but failed to take their opportunities.
Milos Krasic squandered their first chance, rounding Schwarzer in the Australian goal after 12 minutes before skewing his shot wide and high.
Schwarzer produced a fine reflex save to block a close range effort from Branislav Ivanovic midway through the half, and 10 minutes later the giant figure of Nikola Zigic should have scored when left unmarked inside the box, but glanced his header well wide of goal.
The pacy Krasic, who was a menace on the Serbian right flank all evening, slipped though the Aussie defence after 38 minutes and squeezed the ball under Schwarzer into the net, but his effort was ruled out for offside.
At the other end, Australia’s best chance of the half came from a misdirected Tim Cahill header just after the half hour mark.
The Aussies revived in the second half and Mark Bresciano finally tested Serbian goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic with a long-range shot after an hour.
With time running out, Australia coach Pim Verbeek threw on two substitutions and it seemed to give the Aussies the lift they needed.
Cahill’s opener took the wind out of Serbia’s sails and Holman’s second sent thousands of yellow-shirted fans wild in Nelspruit’s Mbombela Stadium. – Reuters