Final Score: Taiwan 1 – 7 Australia.
Despite a well-organised defensive effort, Taiwan were unable to withstand an aerial bombardment from much fancied Australia, as they eventually lost 7-1 in Kaohsiung.
Taiwan worked hard and in the early stages of the match attempted to frustrate Australia with a tightly packed defence. Taiwan’s strategy, against far superior opposition, was to sit back in a 4-5-1, pressing only when Australia entered the final third. Taiwan’s willingness to frustrate their opponents was particularly evident when goalkeeper Pan Wen-Chieh was warned by the referee for taking too long with his goal kicks in just the tenth minute.
Hower, Pan’s perceived cynicism was perhaps justified as only 90 seconds later Australia had the ball in the net as an unmarked Adam Taggart headed home from a cross from the right.
Australia’s goal set a template for the rest of the half as Australia ruthlessly exploited the Taiwanese flanks. Aaron Mooy was pivotal to Australia as he controlled the game from midfield. Time and time again Australia worked the ball to Mooy in the centre, who would then play delightfully accurate passes in behind the Taiwanese full backs for the Australian wingers to deliver crosses to their teammates waiting in the box.
Although Taiwan worked hard and played some excellent football in glimpses, once Australia had the ball in the box the Taiwanese defenders struggled to cope with their taller and stronger opponents. Taggart scored again in the 20th minute following a low cross from the right. Taiwan then hit back with a great header from Chen Yi-Wei, who evaded his man at the back post. Unfortunately for Taiwan, this merely proved to be a brief respite. Australia added two more before the break, with Jackson Irvine being allowed the freedom the the box to control the ball and fire past Pan in the ’33 and then adding a second three minutes later as he flattened Chen Ting-Yang on his way to heading past Pan.
With the four first half goals essentially killing the tie, Australia were content to sit a little deeper in the second half and looked to pick off Taiwan any chance they got. Sensing the game had likely been won, Australia’s manager Graham Arnold withdrew the excellent Aaron Mooy in the ’61, whilst Taiwan’s manager Louis Lancaster removed captain Chen Po-Liang moments after the midfielder had been clutching his leg in pain.
Although Taiwan did briefly threaten the Australian goal again in the second half, with Wang Ruei missing a header when well placed, they were eventually put to the sword as they began to visibly tire in the final fifteen minutes. Giant Australia defender Harry Souttar scored from another header in the ’73, Jamie Maclaren beat Pan after being played through in the ’84, before Souttar finished the rout with his second, another header coming after he shrugged off Wang Ruei.
Despite the heavy loss, there were some positives for Taiwan to take from a game in which anything other than a heavy defeat would have surprised most of the footballing world. In the brief time that Taiwan had the ball, they played some excellent one-touch passing and were confident playing out from the back. This is part of the attractive style of football that Lancaster has been implementing and here were times that they genuinely troubled the Australians with their speed of passing. Emilio Esteves Tsai also looked confident and dangerous on his debut and caused problems for the Australian defenders whenever he looked to take them on and dribble past them. If he can work on his end product, Taiwan could have an excellent new asset.