Football: Venables makes winning start

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The Independent Online
Terry Venables began his new job as Australian national coach with a 1-0 victory over New Zealand in Melbourne yesterday. A crowd of 10,496 watched the match, which was decided by a 25th-minute goal from wing-back Matthew Bingley.

Venables, signed by the Socceroos to try to bring them success in this year's World Cup qualifying competition, received huge cheers at the start of the match and there were more cameras aimed at him than the pitch when the game kicked off.

The match was part of the four-cornered Optus World Soccer Series. Earlier in the day, South Korea beat Norway 1-0.

Venables' arrival - and the size of his contract - has not been welcomed by everyone Down Under, but Venables has already declared his "100 per cent" commitment to the job. "If it had been money alone, I would have taken other offers, but I like the international scene and I'd like to have a go at getting to the World Cup finals," he said.

The team for his first match in charge were all home-based players, the regular internationals playing around Europe - like Aston Villa goalkeeper Mark Bosnich - not being asked to come back at this stage.

They were not all unfamiliar faces, though. Venables found himself pitting his wits against Keith Pritchett, a club-mate of his at Queen's Park Rangers more than 20 years ago and now coach of New Zealand.

Australia were expected to win and by the time the goal came they had already created five clear chances. Bingley himself shot over from the edge of the box, Paul Trimboli hit a post and, following up, Craig Foster had a shot tipped over. Then Trimboli and debutant David Zdrilic fired wide.

The goal could hardly have been more direct. A clearance by goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac, a through ball by the outstanding player, Kris Trajanovski, and the perfect finish by Bingley, who rounded the goalkeeper before slotting the ball home.

It was his first international match since England's semi-final defeat by Germany at Wembley last June and Venables felt his new charges should have won by a bigger margin than they did.

"We knew it was going to be a competitive game and it was," he said. "I thought we did very well up to a point and then made heavy weather of it at the end. Once we got into a commanding position, we should have rammed it home and we didn't."

The next match for Venables is against the Koreans in Brisbane on Wednesday, followed by Norway in Sydney next Saturday.