Confederations Cup: Both Australia and Cameroon do their level best to draw group match

The Asian and African continental champions can still progress after their 1-1 draw at St Petersburg, writes Gary Meenaghan from Russia.

Australia's midfielder Mark Milligan shoots to score in a penalty during their Confederations Cup group B match against Cameroon at the St Petersburg Stadium on Thursday. Mladen Antonov / AFP
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UAE-based midfielder Mark Milligan spared Australia from elimination from the Confederations Cup, converting a second-half penalty to ensure all four teams in Group B remain capable of progression going into the final round of matches.

The Socceroos, Asian champions and thus the continent’s representative at the eight-team World Cup dress rehearsal, were on the brink of an early exit on Thursday night after Cameroon’s Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa put his side ahead on the stroke of half time.

But Milligan, who plays for Abu Dhabi side Baniyas and was his country’s stand-in captain in the absence of Miles Jedinak, stepped up on the hour to equalise and ensure the spoils were shared at the St Petersburg Arena.

“We know what we need to do now,” said Milligan, whose Australia face Chile in their final group game on Sunday.

“We’ll prepare now to go win. We can’t control the other result, so we will focus on ourselves, rest and recover so that, come Sunday, we’re ready to play and hopefully get the result we need.

“Chile is a good side, but, saying that, if we do what we want to do, we’ll get there.”

Cameroon manager Hugo Broos had complained furiously pre-match about Russian traffic hindering his side’s preparations, forcing them to turn up 45 minutes late for their final training session.

The African champions kicked off on time in front of 35,000 fans, but ultimately arrived late to the show, failing to get going for the opening 10 minutes.

When they finally did find their feet, they looked by far the more dangerous team.

Christian Bassogog was named player of the tournament at this year’s 2017 Africa Cup of Nations and the 21-year-old, who plays his domestic football in China, caused havoc down Australia’s left flank with pace and trickery.

Meanwhile Porto striker Vincent Aboubakar, who scored 12 times in 27 games while on loan at Besiktas last year, showed in the first half glimpses of why Newcastle United are considering spending £9 million (Dh41.8m) to secure his services.

Yet it was the only player in Cameroon’s starting XI that is not an African champion who opened the scoring.

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa did not compete at the Cup of Nations in January and was only given his first cap in March.

With one minute of additional time added at the end of the first half, a long floated ball over the top from centre-half Ngadeu Ngadjui evaded the outstretched leg of Aboubakar, but Zambo Anguissa had continued his run, muscling in front of Milos Degenek to knock the ball past the back-pedalling Mathew Ryan.

It was no less than the African champions deserved. Australia had enjoyed marginally more possession, but Cameroon had asked more questions, firing in 11 shots to Australia’s three.

Ange Postecoglou’s side came out for the second half more determined and Tomi Juric could have equalised had he not failed to hit the target when Mathew Leckie wormed his way into space on the right before picking out the FC Luzern forward.

As Australia attacked, Cameroon looked to exploit the spaces left behind and should have doubled their lead moments before Milligan’s equaliser.

Started by the excellent feet of Zambo Anguissa, Ernest Mabouka played Bassogog in behind and he cut back to Aboubakar in plenty space. The striker, however, sliced wide of the upright.

Moments later, the score was level. Alex Gersbach, the Australia defender who only turned 20 last month, was being deployed as a left wing-back and had been unlucky not to notch an assist in the first half when Leckie fired over the bar.

This time, he drove at goal himself and was fouled by Mabouka, enabling Milligan to convert the penalty and keep Australia’s hopes of progress alive.

Cameroon face world champions Germany in the group’s other game on Sunday, with the Africans knowing that, like Australia, nothing but three points will be enough.

“I am quite disappointed because we had the means to win the match,” Zambo Anguissa said. “But nothing is over, we still have a match to go against Germany. There’ll be pressure but that is why we do this job.”

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