VAR intervenes again as Australia settle for Denmark point
Dominant Socceroos equalise from the spot after Christian Eriksen’s early stunner
Mile Jedinak celebrates Australia’s equaliser against Denmark. Photograph Emmanuel Dunand/AFP
Australia’s hopes of advancing to the World Cup knockout stage were hanging by a thread after they drew with Denmark in another match containing a controversial VAR decision.
This time the decision went in Australia’s favour and Mile Jedinak converted a penalty to cancel out Christian Eriksen’s opening goal but the Socceroos could not capitalise on their dominance in the second half. Australia’s fate is now out of their hands, with their progress hinging on the result of other games in Group C.
The opening goal originated from a magical reverse pass by Nicolai Jørgensen on seven minutes after an electric start by the Danes. The Feyenoord forward flicked the ball behind him and into the path of the bounding Eriksen inside the 18-yard box. The Spurs playmaker showed his class by burying a left-footed half volley beyond the stretching Mat Ryan.
Since taking over as Australia’s coach Bert van Marwijk has earned a reputation among journalists in the country for being surly and unwilling to give the merest hint about his game plan in press conferences. But it surely must have involved devising some plot to nullify the threat of Eriksen, the talisman who has been directly involved in 18 goals in his last 15 appearances for Denmark, scoring 13 and contributing five assists.
If there was a plan it was not followed as Eriksen was given far too much time and space on the ball and punished the Socceroos with the sort of lethal finishing Australia have been woefully short of.
As they did against France in their opening game, Australia looked to do damage on the counterattack but lacked composure in front of goal. But the rousing runs by Mathew Leckie down the channels caused a headache for the Denmark defence.
The athletic Leckie contributed to the Australian breakthrough on 38 minutes. He rose prominently on the penalty spot with Yussuf Poulsen barging in with a late challenge. The Dane did not have much time to address his flailing limbs and Leckie’s header struck his left forearm.
The Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz briefly left the field to consult the VAR monitor and decided to award a penalty. Australia were the wrong side of history in their first game against France as a penalty was awarded for the first time in a World Cup match since VAR was introduced. On that occasion, Josh Risdon was judged upon review to have illegally fouled Antoine Greizmann, much to the outrage of the Australian players. They may have felt they were due a lenient VAR decision and it was reported that Aussie fans in the stadium toilets burst into a spontaneous and ironic chant of “VAR, VAR, VAR!” at half-time.
Mile Jedinak stepped up to take the spot kick. He remained composed even when subjected to intense sledging by Denmark’s goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. The Aston Villa midfielder sent Schmeichel the wrong way and fired low and hard into the right hand side of the net. That signified the end Schmeichel’s record run of nine hours and 31 minutes without conceding at international level. It also means that Australia’s last five goals in competitive games have come from Jedinak penalties.
That lack of alternative goal scoring options was obvious in the second half as Australia failed to steal victory despite having the lion’s share of the ball.
The Danes, on and off the pitch, called for a penalty in the 50th minute as Poulsen went down in the box, muscled off the ball by a couple of players in dark green Australian shirts. Among other things, this World Cup is destined to be remembered for the advent of middle aged men in the stands doing TV gestures with their hands whenever there is the slightest contact in the box.
But they twice required Schmeichel to come to their rescue with two late saves. He first denied substitute Daniel Arzani, the youngest player in the tournament at 17, who looked dangerous after coming on, and seconds later he thwarted Leckie.
Denmark: Schmeichel, Larsen, Christensen, Kjaer, Dalsgaard, Delaney, Schone, Sisto, Eriksen, Poulsen (Braithwaite 59), Nicolai Jorgensen (Cornelius 68). Booked: Poulsen,Sisto.
Australia: Ryan, Sainsbury, Risdon, Behich, Milligan, Rogic (Irvine 82), Jedinak, Mooy, Nabbout (Juric 75), Kruse (Arzani 68), Leckie.
Referee: Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz (Spain).