Australia have started their Tokyo Olympics campaign in spectacular fashion with an upset 2-0 victory over Argentina.
Lachlan Wales and Marco Tilio were on target in a combative contest which saw 10 players booked and Argentina defender Francisco Ortega sent off before half-time.
Olyroos coach Graham Arnold had promised his players would produce “something special” in Japan and they duly delivered under the closed roof of the Sapporo Dome.
Australia’s win, which sees them top the Group C standings, avenged 1-0 defeats to Argentina at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics when the South Americans went on to win gold.
The game began in a frantic fashion with Daniel Arzani bursting past several defenders in the first minute and Argentina only just surviving the raid.
Harry Souttar produced a big last-ditch tackle for the Olyroos at the other end before the deadlock was broken after 14 minutes.
Souttar’s free-kick released Joel King down the left and his cross set up Mitch Duke in front of goal.
Duke missed his kick but Wales, the Western United forward, came in behind him to slot home.
Argentina pair Fernando Valenzuela and Fausto Vera had half-chances and Esequiel Barco struck the crossbar from distance.
But Australia were lively and Riley McGree, a 2018 Puskas Award nominee with an incredible scorpion kick effort for Newcastle Jets, almost scored another memorable goal.
This time, however, his powerful overhead kick was held by Argentina goalkeeper Jeremias Ledesma.
The Olyroos were handed a crucial one-man advantage on the stroke of half-time.
Ortega was booked for felling Nathaniel Atkinson and, just seconds later, the Argentina full-back was shown a second yellow card for pushing McGree.
Duke nearly doubled the Olyroos’ lead within seconds of the restart as his chip clipped the crossbar.
Argentina edged their way back into the contest but the flow was disrupted by a raft of bookings.
Atkinson, Duke, Souttar, Caleb Watts, Connor Metcalfe and Denis Genreau were all cautioned for the Olyroos, but victory was sealed 10 minutes from time.
Duke did well to set up Tilio and the substitute swept home from 20 yards just moments after coming on to the pitch.
Australia almost extended their lead in injury time when Duke struck the outside of a post.
The Olyroos’ next game on Sunday is against Spain, who were held to a goalless draw by Egypt in their opener.