Australia coach Holger Osieck had Brett Emerton to thank after the captain's goal secured a hard-fought 1-0 win over Hong Kong in the EAFF East Asian Cup qualifying tournament.
Australia coach Holger Osieck had Brett Emerton to thank after the captain's lone goal secured a hard-fought 1-0 win over Hong Kong in the EAFF East Asian Cup qualifying tournament.
Emerton created some space in the box before firing home into the top left hand corner of the goal on 86 minutes.
In front of a sometimes hostile home crowd and on a poor surface at the Mong Kok Stadium, Australia found the going tough and would be counting its blessing after the late strike.
With Brisbane Roar defenders Ivan Franjic and Matt Smith making their debuts, Australia created just a handful of half chances in the opening half.
The Socceroos went closest when Matt McKay blazed his volley over from 14 yards when he should have done better.
And minutes before the break Robert Cornthwaite flashed a header wide of the post from an in-swinging McKay corner.
The 172nd ranked host Hong Kong provided stiff opposition to continually frustrate its highly-fancied opponent and on a couple of occasions looked dangerous on the counter-attack.
Hong Kong striker Lo Kwan Yee tested Socceroos goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic early in the second half before Emerton's frustrations boiled over on 52 minutes, reacting to a challenge by pushing his opponent and earning himself a caution.
Galekovic was again called into action on 64 minutes, this time needing to be alert to push the ball around his near post from Yee's cross-come-shot.
Minutes later a defensive error gave Emerton the chance to release Archie Thompson on goal but the striker's one-on-one effort was saved by Hong Kong goalkeeper Yapp Hung Fai.
Galekovic was then forced to make a fingertip save to deny the host going ahead.
Adam Taggart became the third debutant for Australia when he replaced a limping Thompson with a quarter of an hour to go and a minute later fellow new boy Franjic had a sight on goal easily smothered by Yapp.
Tom Rogic replaced Garcia and within a minute his fancy footwork created space on the edge of the box but his powerful left-foot strike was parried over the bar by Yapp.
Just as time looked to be slipping away, Emerton found the net in the 86th minute to give Australia the lead. Minutes later the Socceroos captain was substituted for his Sydney FC team-mate Terry Antonis, making his national team debut at 19 years of age.
Socceroos line-up: Eugene Galekovic; Ivan Franjic, Robert Cornthwaite, Matt Smith, Aziz Behich; Brett Emerton (c) (Terry Antonis 90'), Michael Thwaite, Mark Millligan, Matt McKay; Richard Garcia, Archie Thompson.
Australia next plays DPR Korea on Wednesday 5 December (kick-off 11:30pm AEDT), then Guam on Friday 7 December (kick-off 8:50pm AEDT) with its final match of the tournament against Chinese Taipei on Sunday 9 December (kick-off 8:00pm AEDT).
Earlier, DPR Korea made it two wins from as many starts in the round-robin preliminary tournament with a 5-0 victory over Guam.
The EAFF East Asian Cup 2013 will be held in Seoul, Korea Republic, from 20-28 July next year.