Asian Cup 2019: Australia boss Arnold full of confidence after Palestine retort

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Asian Cup champions Australia will head into Tuesday’s Group B-decider against fallen dark horses Syria “expecting to win” after they rebounded from a shock opening loss to down Palestine, according to head coach Graham Arnold.

The Socceroos fell to a 1-0 defeat to Jordan last Sunday when the 55-year-old’s first competitive match of his second stint in charge got off to an alarming stint. Doubts were cast aside, however, at a sold-out Rashid Stadium on Friday through unanswered goals – all via crosses – from Jamie Maclaren, Awer Mabil and Apostolo Giannou.

“Palestine pretty much tried to play the same game plan as Jordan did,” said Arnold, whose side wrap up their pool commitments at Al Ain’s Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium against a nation they defeated during October’s 2017’s World Cup play-offs. “We obviously haven’t been that long together – the players didn’t have a long camp like some of the other countries, so it’s taken a bit of time to get things going.

“But as I said after the Jordan game, when you lose you learn. And we learned a lot from that day.

“We went onto the training pitch, we worked hard to fix that issue if the teams play quite defensive.

“Now it’s all about the Syria game. We’ll get back on the training field, and recover well.

“We’ll go into the Syria game with all guns blazing and expecting to win.

“We’ll get better and better as we go. There’s been a lot of changes in the team, a lot of changes in the staff, so we’re a new team, and will still grow.”

Familiar faces will greet the Socceroos in midweek. A nervy 3-2 aggregate win was claimed under predecessor Ange Postecoglou, from which early elimination was avoided when star Syria striker Omar Al Somah’s late free-kick in extra time rattled the post.

The Syrians, however, have gained only one point in the UAE and sacked manager Bernd Stange after Thursday’s 2-0 defeat to Jordan put them on the cusp of elimination.

“This will be a difficult game,” insisted Arnold. “We know them well; we played against Syria in the World Cup qualifier.

“I wasn’t here but my players do know them. We’ll recover, analyse them, and go out expecting to win the game.”

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Asian Cup 2019: Effortless Australia do enough to see off Palestine

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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, Chris Ikonomidis getting a second assist.

Here is the report card:

GOOD

Mahmoud’s might – It takes a good player to unsettle the Socceroos’ centre-back axis of Trent Sainsbury – now suspended for Tuesday’s critical decider against Syria after a second competition booking – and Milos Degenek.

Palestine only had three attempts in the entire game, with none on target. But when they chipped it up to hulking Al Masry centre forward Mahmoud Wadi, confusion abounded.

Wadi was a second-half substitute in the goalless draw with Syria. His mere presence should mean the Australia promotion remains for the decider with Jordan.

Although the fact Palestine have gone scoreless in both games does not auger well for a first knockout-stage progression.

Socceroos strike back – Australia’s setback against Jordan did more than just provide a false start.

It lead to questions about the entire Graham Arnold programme. Plus, left the likes of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Japan and South Korea in early positions of strength.

At a partisan Rashid, the Sydney FC legend’s new charges came up with the right answers.

Ikonomidis and Mabil were excellent on both wings. Tom Rogic, Jackson Irvine and Mark Milligan should be good enough to win most midfield battles, while Maclaren’s excellent header eases so much pressure.

Ultimately, this Soceroos’ set-up misses a goal scorer the most now that Tim Cahill is – finally – retired.

Maclaren must keep this up. A fluffed third-minute mishit showed the rushed side of the Darmstadt 98-owned striker’s game.

BAD

Defensive disasters – Palestine looked a tough nut to crack when they opened with a 0-0 draw with Syria.

The likes of skipper Abdelatif Bahdari simply relished the aerial fight with the direct Syrians. Without suspended usual foil Mohammed Saleh, however, Palestine’s resolve crumbled.

Australia profited from a trio of crosses. Maclaren and Giannou’s goals looked particularly bad on the replay.

They cannot be so lax against qualified Jordan and expect to proceed.

Sainsbury’s suspension – It appeared a nothing moment.

But the 83rd-minute yellow card shown to premier centre-back Sainsbury as a comfortable win wound to a finish could have stark consequences.

A pair of bookings mean the PSV Eindhoven defender will not be present to repel Syria’s 2017 AFC Player of the Year Omar Khrbin and Al Ahli Jeddah talisman Omar Al Somah on Tuesday at Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium.

Matthew Jurman is the likely stand-in. His struggles at shock Saudi Professional League relegation candidates Al Ittihad, however, show he is not a like-for-like replacement.

KEY MOMENTS

3rd min CHANCE: Maclaren receives the ball unmarked in the penalty box, but pulls off an embarrassing air-shot.

18th min GOAL: Rogic swings one in from deep and Maclaren moves between the centre-backs to expertly flick a header home. Memorable way to score a first international goal.

20th min GOAL: The Socceroos go wide again. This time, Ikonomidis floats a centre in and Mabil arrives unmarked at the back stick to emphatically volley in.

54th min WOODWORK: Right-back Rhyan Grant’s cross/shot rocks the crossbar.

90th min GOAL: Giannou strolls in unmarked to head home Ikonomidis’ well-worked short corner.

TACTICAL TALKING POINT

New trio make their marks

Change had to be afoot for Australia after a listless opening loss to Jordan.

Under-pressure boss Arnold restricted the changes to three – and all of them impressed at Rashid Stadium.

Mulleted right-back Rhyan Grant dominated his flank and rocked the crossbar in the second half with a deflected cross/shot. Hull City midfielder Jackson Irvine added drive to the centre of the pitch in place of sedate fellow Championship performer Massimo Luongo, plus Chris Ikonomidis strong early form with Perth Glory translated into an assist for fellow winger Mabil and substitute Giannou.

The constant between this trio is energy. Life has been breathed back into the Socceroos.

VERDICTS

Palestine – C

Not even the partisan support packed into the Rashid could lift limited Palestine past their opponents.

They have it all to do against Jordan to get a result that sends them into the knockouts when Group B winds up on Tuesday.

Australia – B

This result was a victory for Arnold. His changes all paid off, plus you could discern a new direction that the Socceroos are going to travel on.

Syria will be tough final opponents. But they showed enough this weekend to feel confident of another triumph against the nation they defeated in World Cup 2018’s play-offs.

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Asian Cup 2019: Awer Mabil and Jackson Irvine influence grows in Australia player ratings

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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:

AUSTRALIA (4-3-3)

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.

SUBSTITUTES

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.

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