A late defensive bungle has cost Australia a deserved victory over Ghana in an international football friendly in London overnight.

The Socceroos took the lead in the 26th minute when John Aloisi converted from the spot after being brought down by a crude tackle from defender Francis Dickoh in front of almost 15,000 fans at Loftus Road, in London’s west.

The Australia team, minus three of its biggest stars – Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill – controlled much of the match, but conceded a goal 15 minutes from full-time when keeper Mark Schwarzer and defender Patrick Kisnorbo tangled in the box after a seemingly innocuous Asaoah Gyan cross.

The loose ball spilled into the path of Junior Agogo, who slotted the ball into the back of the unguarded goal from six yards.

Australian football chiefs will be quietly satisfied with the Socceroos’ showing, despite the fact that this team is showing a few signs of not knowing quite how to kill off its opposition. Recent draws with admittedly top quality opponents like Croatia, Paraguay and now Ghana have come about despite the team enjoying lengthy spells of domination throughout each match.

Despite these concerns, this current unit is looking increasingly comfortable on the international stage, retaining the controlled passing game ingrained by Guus Hiddink. It’s now up to caretaker coach Graham Arnold to pass that knowledge gained from his short time with Hiddink onto the next tier of players who will form part of Australia’s squad going into next year’s Asian Cup.

Meanwhile, Arnold will be delighted to hear that Everton and Australia midfielder Tim Cahill’s knee injury sustained in an accidental clash with teammate Lee Carsley at the weekend is not as bad as first thought.

The 26-year-old midfielder will be out of action for up to eight weeks after scans showed damage to his medial ligament, allaying fears that he had damaged cruciate ligaments in the sickening collision.

The news comes as a blow to Everton’s immediate chances of remaining in the top half of the English Premier League, but keep alive Cahill’s prospects of playing in the 2007 Asian Cup, starting next July.

Peter Fray

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