Australia head coach Ange Postecoglou praised two-goal Tim Cahill after the veteran forward fired the Socceroos into the semi-finals of the AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 at the expense of China in Brisbane on Thursday.
Cahill scored with a sublime overhead kick and a trademark header in the second half to move the hosts into the last four and a meeting with either defending champions Japan or the United Arab Emirates in Newcastle on January 27.
“No one’s going to lie down, it’s a quarter-final,” said Postecoglou after his side saw off a determined China.
MATCH REPORT - QF: China 0-2 Australia
“They were working their socks off, they were closing our spaces and making it really hard for us but while they were doing it they were using energy and I said to the boys at half-time, just keep the ball moving and eventually they’ll break down.
“It took a Timmy special to do it, but once we got it we never looked back.
“I still think in that penalty box he’s world class,” he said of the former Everton and Millwall man, who started on the bench in the final group game against Korea Republic.
“We’ve managed him really well and we get the best out of him and maybe people will see some wisdom in us leaving him out against Korea.
“We’ve got to make sure that players like him, we use to the maximum of their ability and understand that we can’t just flog him out there.”
Cahill claimed his first in the 49th minute when he reacted quickest to Mathew Leckie’s ball over the top of the Chinese defence to steer his bicycle kick beyond Wang Dalei in the opposition goal.
And 16 minutes later the 35-year-old claimed a Socceroos’ record-extending 39th goal with a header from Jason Davidson’s cross from more than 12 yards out that bounced into the far corner beyond the diving Wang.
“It feels good,” said Cahill. “I was confident after the Korea game that we could bounce back, especially with the way we played.
“I’m proud of the boys, but most of all this is a big win for us. It’s something I knew deep down was going to happen before the game because I believe in this team and it showed in the end.