Milligan comes out tops for Australia in final against gutsy South Koreans
The securing of Australia's first major men's football trophy -- the 2015 AFC Asian Cup -- came after a classic team performance against a determined South Korea side as they won 2-1 in the final thanks to James Troisi's extra-time strike.
For a change, it wasn't Tim Cahill who carried the Socceroos on his shoulders as Ange Postecoglou's young side dug deep to taste glory in front of 76,385 fans at Stadium Australia in Sydney.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Maty Ryan, 7 -- One of the shining lights of Australia's championship-winning campaign had another solid game. Ryan marshalled his defence in a manner that belied his 22 years. He acrobatically dealt with the few crosses that South Korea sent his way and couldn't be held accountable for South Korea's second-half injury-time equaliser from Son Heung-min.
DF Ivan Franjic, 5 -- All the pre-match talk centred around Franjic's fitness for the final. Postecoglou's gamble looked like it had backfired in the first half as the Koreans focused almost their entire attack down his flank. An early yellow card didn't help things either. Finally succumbed to his injury with 15 minutes of regular time to play.
DF Matthew Spiranovic, 7 -- Australia's tower of power halted Korean striker Lee Jeong-hyeop's stunning run of form at the Asian Cup with a commanding display. With the game hanging in balance during extra-time, Spiranovic steadied his defence with a number of key interceptions.
DF Trent Sainsbury, 7 -- Started the match well and laid on the ball to Luongo to open the scoring in the 45th minute. The highly rated centre-back, however, faded as the game progressed and uncharacteristically gave the ball away on several occasions. Might have done better in preventing South Korea's equaliser.
DF Jason Davidson, 6.5 -- Another energetic display from Davidson who had an absorbing tussle with Korea's Cha Du-ri. He was unfortunate to be given a yellow card early in the second half, but has surely cemented his position as Australia's premier left-back.
MF Mark Milligan, 9 -- Mature performance from the Melbourne Victory captain who more than matched the excellent South Korean midfield before he switched to right-back when Franjic went off. He was a leader and physically imposed himself when the Socceroos needed it most. His versatility and his tigerish temperament were priceless for the home nation on the night.
MF Mile Jedinak, 7 -- Made his presence felt with a crunching tackle on Son early in the game. Jedinak played his role of midfield destroyer with aplomb.
MF Massimo Luongo, 9 -- In a tournament that will likely see the retirement of two greats in Cahill and Mark Bresciano, Australia has found a new darling. A goal-saving block seven minutes from half-time may endear the 22-year-old to his manager, but it's the 20-yard show-stopper that has elevated the Swindon Town midfielder to rock-star status among the Socceroos faithful.
FW Mathew Leckie, 6 -- Once again, Leckie's industry was commendable but a lack of final product is a worry looking forward. To his credit, he seemed like the only man on the field still running when the 120 minutes were up.
FW Robbie Kruse, 6 -- He left the field after 70 minutes with a foot injury. Kruse may not have shown the same spark that lit up the Aussies in the semifinal, but his tireless running worried Cha Du-ri all night.
FW Tim Cahill, 6 -- As Cahill left the field after an hour, one got the feeling that it may have been the last time the Socceroos' all-time leading goal scorer will appear for the nation he provided so many highlights for. A quiet game may not have been what the 35-year-old was hoping for, but a first piece of silverware for his nation means the legend will leave Sydney a happy man.
FW Tomi Juric, 8 -- Brought on for Cahill with half an hour still to play, Juric played his nuisance role excellently -- drawing three free kicks in the final throes of normal time. His turn and nutmeg of Kim Jin-su to set up Australia's winner will go down in folklore.
FW James Troisi, 7.5 -- Introduced with 20 minutes of normal time remaining, Troisi made the most of the space left by an obviously tiring Korean side. Was the right man at the right time to turn Australia's winner in from close range.
MF Matt McKay, 7 -- With Franjic injured and Milligan moved to right-back, Postecoglou's lieutenant was brought on to provide further girth to the centre of Australia's midfield.
Mike Wise is the associate editor for ESPN FC Australia and New Zealand. You can follow him on Twitter @wisey_9.