(Reuters) - Australia coach Ange Postecoglou said the Asian champions would be stronger for coming through something of a scare after kicking off their World Cup qualifying campaign with a hard-earned 2-1 win over Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday.
The Socceroos went ahead in the second minute in Bishkek but were forced to endure heavy pressure from the 177th-ranked Kyrgyzs to get their quest to reach a fourth successive World Cup finals off to a winning start.
“There aren’t many nations in the world these days that can’t play and we knew it was going to be a tough game,” Postecoglou told Fox Sports TV.
“We knew we had to get on top early, luckily we got the goal and I think we just tried to force it too much after that.
“Maybe we thought things would come a lot easier it will be a great experience for everyone involved and we’ll grow from this.”
Roared on by a partisan crowd, the home side hammered away at the Australians and better finishing would have them back in the contest well before halftime.
A second half strike from Tommy Oar gave Australia the breathing room to secure the victory despite a stoppage time goal from Kyrgyzstan, which was credited to Azamat Baimatov but clearly went into the net off the hand of Almazbek Mirzaliev.
“We knew we were going to be in for a game and that’s what we got,” said Socceroos skipper Mile Jedinak, whose second-minute free kick took a wicked bounce off the uneven surface to beat the home goalkeeper.
“I knew getting it on target it might have a chance, to be honest, but I didn’t expect it to bobble that much. But hey, I’ll take it.”
Postecoglou spared special praise for club-less midfielder Oar, who came on for Nathan Burns in the 56th minute and scored with a fine finish 10 minutes later.
“I thought Tommy Oar was really good for us, he came on and he was really positive and went at them,” the coach said.
“That was probably what we were missing in the first half. He got a good goal so full credit to him.”
Australia, who must get through two round-robin qualifying stages to reach Russia in 2018, host their next qualifier against Bangladesh in Perth in September.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford