BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) - Skipper Mile Jedinak scored in the second minute to set Asian champion Australia on its way to a 2-1 win over Kyrgyzstan in its opening qualifier for the 2018 World Cup on Tuesday.
The Crystal Palace midfielder curled a free kick over the defensive wall from 25 yards (meters) and the ball landed in front of the goalkeeper before bouncing sharply into the roof of the net.
The home team dominated possession and had more scoring opportunities but failed to convert them before Tommy Oar finished off a counterattack to double the lead in the 68th minute.
Kyrgyzstan got a consolation goal in stoppage time when Azamot Baimatov headed home from a corner, with the referee rejecting Australia’s appeal for a handball by Kyrgyzstan forward Mirzaliev Almazbek as the ball crossed inside the far post.
The Australians, who won the Asian Cup in January and are aiming to qualify for a fourth consecutive World Cup, joined Jordan and Kyrgyzstan - which won their opening matches last week - on three points in Group B.
Australia coach Ange Postecoglou credited substitute forward Oar with making the difference in the second half.
“He was really bright. He went at them, which was probably what we were missing in the first half,” Postecoglou said in a post-match TV interview. “He scored a good goal, full credit to him.”
Jedinak said the experience, including the uneven pitch condition, the parochial 18,000-strong crowd and the heavy police presence, would be valuable for the Australians later in the campaign.
“They’re the challenges we need to get used to,” he said. “Coming away with a big three points to start the campaign … it’s always great to start on the front foot.”
The next matches in the group are in September.
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