MELBOURNE Australia coach Ange Postecoglou criticised his team for "wasting" the first half of their 1-1 draw with Japan in Melbourne on Tuesday which slowed the home side's progress to the World Cup finals in Russia.
Australia were on the back foot early when a mistake in midfield led to Genki Haraguchi's fifth-minute goal and were lucky the same player gave away a second-half penalty at Docklands stadium.
Captain Mile Jedinak's spot-kick salvaged a point and the Socceroos finished strongly but it was of little consolation to their coach and much of the crowd of 48,000.
"Overall, you kind of think we wasted that 45 minutes of the game," a deflated Postecoglou told reporters.
"We were very poor in the first half. A very poor start.
"We didn’t show enough intent in the 45 minutes to score.
"From our perspective, we were just very, very static, we were just a little bit too cute in some of our moves.
"We should have just taken the game to them."
Australia, who drew 2-2 away to Saudi Arabia last week, remained on top of Group B of Asian qualifying, but can be leapfrogged by either Saudi Arabia or United Arab Emirates who play in Jeddah later on Tuesday.
Japan, battling fatigue and nursing a number of injuries, played on the counter-attack, forcing the Socceroos to take the initiative.
But the hosts, rattled by the early goal, were devoid of ideas heading forward and resorted to speculative long balls into the area before playing with more verve after the break.
"I’m disappointed in the context of where I think we’re at as a team," Postecoglou said.
"We’re trying to create a scenario where we’ve got multiple ways of breaking down an opposition. The formation’s one thing, more to the point for me is our movement and our intent."
Postecoglou took solace in the performance of Tomi Juric, who relegated talismanic striker Tim Cahill to the bench and forced the penalty.
"He was okay tonight. He and (forward Apostolos) Giannou were a little bit too stagnant for us in the first half.
"(But) with Tommy he’s had an effect on the game.
"It’s good to see he’s certainly maturing and progressing well."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)