Australia's Mile Jedinak scores one of his two penalties.
Australia's Mile Jedinak scores one of his two penalties. DAVID MOIR

Captain fantastic leads Socceroos to World Cup finals

MILE Jedinak's double blast has put Australia into the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia after a tense and torrid qualifying match against Honduras in Sydney.

After 22 games, 848 days and more than 200,000 of travelling, Australia came home strongly in the final 45 minutes to qualify for a fourth straight World Cup finals.

Captain Jedinak scored two penalties and forced a third goal via an own goal as Australia overcame a nervous first half to storm to a 3-0 lead with minutes left. Honduras claimed a consolation goal through Alberth Elis in injury time as the stadium celebrated.

Jedinak stepped up in the 53rd minute after Tom Rogic was fouled on the edge of the area and slammed his freekick into the net via the belly of Honduran substitute Henry Figueroa.

While that was given an own goal, there was no doubt about the second as the skipper added a penalty in the 70th minute.

While the first goal was pure relief for Australia after a nervy period, a Honduran goal would put the visitors in ascendancy on the away goals rule.

Tim Cahill very nearly doubled the margin minutes later, rising high for a tunning looping header that fell onto the cross bar.

Then out of nowhere the pressure valve eased considerably. Mooy cut a ball back in the box and it clipped the hand of Bryan Acosta and Jedinak kept his cool after Nestor Pitana gave the penalty.

The third came with five minutes remaining as Robbie kruse was cut down in the process of scoring. Again, Jedinak made no mistake.

Rogic's soft shot from seven yards on 36 minutes was a major let off for the visitors while Tim Cahill, recalled after missing the opening 0-0 draw, was centimetres away from a goal earlier.

Cahill nearly gave Australia the perfect start, just failing to get a touch as an Aaron Mooy freekick swung towards goal in the 13th minute.

Cahill was pivotal again when he nutmegged Brayan Beckeles near the left hand corner flag and Aziz Behich took the ball on and cut back well for Rogic, who shot lamely at Donis Escober.

Earlier Australia had a heart stopping moment just two minutes into the game when Matt Jurman had a heavy touch and then fouled Alberth Elis as he tried to regain possession.

The referee gave a yellow card as the visitors bayed for a red.

Despite the chances, and a significant advantage of 72 per cent possession through the opening 45 minutes, Australia were battling to settle in the game in front of a nervous, subdued crowd that was still building during the game after massive traffic delays.

Keeper Mat Ryan and defender Trent Sainsbury typified the tension playing simple balls horribly askew into touch.

The game remained on a knife's edge at half-time at 0-0, the period ending with Aaron Mooy picking up a yellow, joining Jurman and Maynor Figueroa in the book.

News Corp Australia

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