Nikita Rukavytsya and Robert Cornthwaite scored their first international goals as an experimental Socceroos ground out a 2-1 win over South Korea in their friendly match in Hwaseong.
In a match where exciting youngsters Tom Rogic, Aziz Behich, Eli Babalj and Mathew Leckie were all handed debuts off the bench, fringe players Rukavytsya and Cornthwaite made the most of rare starts to secure a come-from-behind win.
Striker Rukavystya’s first goal in 10 appearances, set up by Tommy Oar, cancelled out Lee Dong-Gook’s 12th minute opener after the Socceroos had been dominated early by their Asian rivals.
But Australia improved after half-time, with Cornthwaite tapping home the winner in only his second appearance in the 88th minute after Babalj had struck the woodwork.
Korean-based Cornthwaite was a late call-up to the squad after several players were ruled out with injury and his performance was one of several bright spots in a mixed performance for Australia.
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The Socceroos were disjointed at times as coach Holger Osieck took the chance blood some young talent ahead of next month’s East Asian qualifiers.
Osieck’s starting team featured veterans including Lucas Neill, Mark Schwarzer and Carl Valeri but the German also handed starts to the likes of Rukavytsya, Tommy Oar, James Holland and Ryan McGowan.
Cornthwaite partnered Neill at the centre of defence while Michael Thwaite was a surprise selection at left back for his first appearance in five years.
South Korea also fielded a youthful line-up featuring only three players with 10 or more caps.
But they quickly took control of the game when Dong-Gook netted his 10th international goal.
Lee Seung-Ki caught Thwaite out of position and produced a lovely cross, with Dong-Gook beating Mark Schwarzer with a neatly-taken volley.
Rukavytsya, playing with Mainz in Germany’s Bundesliga, came close to scoring in the 38th minute and didn’t have to wait much longer to get on the scoresheet.
The striker latched onto a superb Oar through ball and side-footed the ball past Korean goalkeeper Kim Young-Kwang.
Valeri, in his 50th appearance, was forced off with an injury after half-time with Behich handed his Socceroos debut from the bench.
Exciting teenager Rogic followed, given his first cap when coming on for Archie Thompson in the 67th minute before Babalj and Leckie also joined in.
Neill came agonisingly close to an elusive goal for his country when his header was tipped wide in the 73rd minute as Australia came home stronger and they secured a first win in Korea in 40 years when Cornthwaite popped up to score from a goalmouth scrap.
Osieck took plenty of positives from the performance, hailing a host of contributors who played key roles for the first time.
“I think it was good to win on the road but when you look at the team, I’m very surprised how well the boys did,” Osieck said.
“And not only the ones who got their first cap today, even those who don’t usually have much playing time.
“Everybody (did well) … I’m very happy for those boys.
“I think we saw a lot of very positive elements that give us a lot of hope for the future.”
While warning World Cup qualifiers were of “a different calibre” to the friendly match, Osieck vowed to continue giving the young players a chance to develop in coming games.
“I think all in all I’m very pleased with what I saw tonight and we’re going to build on it,” Osieck said.
Cornthwaite, of Korean side Chunnam Dragons, admitted his head was spinning after netting the winner just two days after being called into camp.
“To come in and get on the scoresheet and get a win, I think was a great performance by all the boys,” he said.
“It was a short preparation so I think the lads did a fantastic job tonight.”