Football: Ronaldinho's mastery pegs back Socceroos

Australia 2 Brazil 2
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RONALDINHO SCORED one goal and set up a second as a young Brazilian team fought back to draw with Australia here yesterday and secure the two-match series 4-2 on aggregate.

Celtic's Mark Viduka overcame a thigh injury to have an outstanding match for the Socceroos but it was a repeat of their previous match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, a crucial World Cup qualifier against Iran in 1997.

On that occasion, as with yesterday's match, Australia were in command at 2-0 before letting in two goals in the last 15 minutes which cost them a place at the 1998 World Cup.

This series was marred by controversy as Leeds United's Harry Kewell chose to stay with the club rather than play for Australia and Ronaldo pulled out because of disagreements between his club and his country. The loss of the two high profile players prompted the promoters to give free entry to the two matches and a massive crowd attended yesterday's game.

Australia were also disrupted by Ned Zelic, their German-based midfielder, walking out of the team camp and leaving the international game after being dropped for the first time since 1991.

Paul Agostino scored twice before Ronaldinho got one back and then set up the equaliser for Fabio Junior. Australia scored in the 11th minute when Viduka took a Kevin Muscat pass in his stride, clipped it over the Brazilian defence and Agostino headed home. Agostino made it 2-0 when he scored from a Brad Maloney cross after 61 minutes but then the Australians released their grip.

Ronaldinho headed in a Denilson cross on 75 minutes and 10 minutes later he set up Junior's goal.

Before the match, Zelic announced that he was retiring from the international game in a reaction to being dropped. An angry Zelic, who plays for Munich 1860, stormed out of the team camp without telling anyone he was leaving. He refused to discuss the situation with the new national coach, Frank Farina, but informed Soccer Australia by fax that he would no longer be available for selection.

Zelic's decision will hurt Farina, whose first game in charge was the 2-0 loss to a Young Brazilian team in Sydney on Sunday. Zelic had never been dropped before in a national team career stretching back to 1991.

"On the question of Ned making himself available for Australia again, that is a question only the player can answer," Farina said.

Zelic had a habit of lighting up Australia's midfield and was outstanding when the team beat a World XI including Leonardo and Christian Vieri in June. That match was played under the caretaker coach Raul Blanco, who had replaced Terry Venables. Blanco was well supported by the players for the full-time position but missed out to Farina, a former Serie A striker.