Australia got their Asian Cup defence back on track with a comfortable 3-0 win against Palestine at a sell-out Rashid Stadium.
Two goals in three first-half minutes lifted the gloom cast by Sunday’s shock opening 1-0 defeat to Jordan in Group B. On-loan Hibernian striker Jamie Maclaren broke his international duck to flick in Tom Rogic’s cross in the 18th minute, before Midtjylland winger Awer Mabil volleyed home shortly after.
Despite the vocal encouragement of the sizeable Palestine support, a response could then not be stirred in their outclassed heroes. A third goal would follow in the 90th minute when replacement Apostolos Giannou headed in from point-blank range after a short corner.
Here are the Socceroos player ratings:
Maty Ryan – 6: Most noticeable part of his day’s work was the ill-suited baseball cap he wore in the second half. Looked like he was off to the beach. Which he could have done, so few were Palestine’s attacking incursions.
Rhyan Grant – 7: The man with the Asian Cup’s greatest haircut made the most of his introduction into the XI. Struck the crossbar in second half with a deflected cross/shot.
Trent Sainsbury – 6: Asia’s best centre-back largely coasted through this match. Was only troubled on rare occasions when Palestine went direct to Mahmoud Wadi. Suspended for Syria decider after second yellow of tournament.
Milos Degenek – 6: Same story for the Red Star Belgrade defender. Will have welcomed this display after the troubles of Jordan.
Aziz Behich – 6: The PSV Eindhoven substitute left-back is a trusted performer at international level. Isn’t expansive with the ball, but this didn’t hurt the Socceroos on Friday.
Jackson Irvine – 7: Irvine is a ball of energy and tower of strength. Dug in well with Mark Milligan when not in possession, then charged through into the penalty box. Almost got on the end of several crosses. Deserved start ahead of Massimo Luongo.
Tom Rogic – 7: The Celtic playmaker was at his imperious best. Palestine could not lay a finger on him. Cross from deep picked out Maclaren for the opener.
Mark Milligan – 7: Captain’s display for the ex-Bani Yas defensive midfielder. Was away to any Palestinian threat, plus recycled ball superbly.
Awer Mabil – 7: That’s now three goals in seven internationals for the Kenya-born winger. Turned up on time to volley in at far post. His energy was key to the Socceroos’ improved performance – and result.
Jamie Maclaren – 7: Head coach Graham Arnold’s continued faith was repaid in the 18th minute when he delicately flicked on Rogic’s cross. A first international goal at the 10th attempt relieved the pressure on player and country.
Chris Ikonomidis – 7: An excellent start to life at Perth Glory has been extended into the Asian Cup. Hung up an enticing deep cross for fellow winger Mabil to convert, plus teed up replacement Giannou. His energy was the perfect antidote to Robbie Kruse’s slumber.
⚽️⚽️⚽️🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺 back on track lads 👏🏼🙌🏽— TIM CAHILL (@Tim_Cahill) January 11, 2019
Massimo Luongo – 6: Kept Australia ticking over as Rogic was given a rest.
Apostolos Giannou – N/A: Rose off the bench to flick in Australia’s third.
Robbie Kruse – N/A: Veteran winger helped see out the win.
Manager Stephen Constantine believed India squandered “enough chances to win two games” as his energetic and enterprising young team ultimately lost 2-0 to a more clinical UAE at the Asian Cup.
Khalfan Mubarak put the Whites 1-0 up in the first half against the run of play. And as the Blue Tigers pressed for an equaliser but ran out of steam after the interval, deadly Ali Mabkhout wrapped up the points with a killer late second.
Defeat still leaves India in good shape to make the round of 16 though, following their opening 4-1 victory over Thailand.
And their English coach Constantine told his India players in the aftermath of defeat that they are going to go and win their final Group A game against Bahrain on Monday and qualify for the knockout rounds of the Asian Cup – for the first time in more than 50 years.
Constantine, in charge since 2015, said: “We created enough chances to win two games, not one.
“The problem is when you don’t convert them, they come back and make you pay for it. In the last game we converted, this game we didn’t.
“I think the UAE had three shots on target (six), one hit the post and the other two went in. I think we deserved a draw at least but if you don’t convert your chances, you are made to pay.
“I have 23 bitterly disappointed boys in there and I think that speaks volumes. A couple of years ago we’d have come here, lost 2-0 and been quite happy. They know we could have taken something from this game. But we have another one and we look forward to Bahrain.”
India are appearing at just their fourth Asian Cup and failed to go beyond the initial phase in both 1984 and 2011. They finished runners-up in just a four-team tournament in 1964 though and a young squad is winning admirers in the Emirates.
The Blue Tigers have an average age of just under 25, with only three players in the squad over 30 – including skipper Sunil Chhetri, 34, his nation’s leading appearance maker and goalscorer.
India twice hit the bar and wasted a slew of decent chances, with Chhetri and Pritam Kotal both guilty of missing opportunities to break the deadlock in the first half.
Mubarak and then Mabkhout made them pay, with Constantine ruing the fact his side were not as clinical as in the 4-1 thrashing of Thailand in their opener.
Constantine added: “I just told them ‘pick your heads up, you didn’t lose this game’, if you know what I mean. We played very well and could have won it.
“We have another game in four days’ time and we’re going to win it and qualify. I can’t ask any more from the players. They gave everything they had as they do every time they play for India and I’m very proud of them.
“We’ll give anyone a game, that’s clear from today, Thailand and during qualifying. Many of the UAE players told me ‘we didn’t think you were that good’, which is nice, but at the end of the day we lost.”
Alberto Zaccheroni heaped praise on a young and energetic India team that posed plenty of problems for his UAE side – although the Italian admired the Whites’ “clinical” finishing that earned a key 2-0 win at the Asian Cup.
The host nation were harried and harangued for large parts of an entertaining encounter at Zayed Sports City on Thursday night – one that saw the UAE go to the top of Group A with four points following their win and saw them put one foot in the knockout stages.
Veteran Italian tactician Zaccheroni thanked the 43,206 fans inside the stadium for supporting his side – even if most of the noise being generated was by passionate Indian followers.
“I am delighted to have been able to make UAE fans happy with this win,” said Zaccheroni, the 65-year-old ex-Juventus, AC and Inter Milan coach who won this competition with Japan in 2011.
“I know they were disappointed after the first draw. I would like to thank all of those fans that came here tonight and supported us.”
Zaccheroni and his charges were under pressure following a below par performance and result in their opening game of the tournament against Gulf neighbours Bahrain last Saturday. Ahmed Khalil’s late penalty earned a late point in a 1-1 stalemate.
The result was much better against Stephen Constantine’s Blue Tigers, who had thrashed Thailand 4-1 in their first game, even if the UAE were outplayed for large spells.
But a deft Khalfan Mubarak finish before the break put the UAE 1-0 up after being teed up by Al Jazira team-mate Ali Mabkhout. And it was the lethal Pride of Abu Dhabi striker who secured victory with a late second for his side.
The win moved the UAE onto four points, with India second on goal difference from Thailand who beat Bahrain 1-0 earlier in the day.
And Zaccheroni was pleased with how his side dealt with the threat of the Blue Tigers.
“We started well, but with time we struggled with the pace of the Indian team,” he added.
“In the second half, we changed the way we play; we were tackling more, recovering the ball quicker and were more focused. We were clinical in front of goal and got the second goal.
“Congratulations for my team for the result and the performance. India have a bright future ahead of them.”