AFC Asian Cup 2019: Defending champions Australia back on track after 3-0 win over Palestine

Asian Cup Australia Palestine

Reigning champions Australia put behind their opening day disappointment as they defeated Palestine 3-0 in Group B of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 at the Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai on Friday. 

Australia’s first two goals came within a gap of two minutes early on in the first half as Hibernian striker Jamie Maclaren and FC Midtjylland attacker Awer Mabil marked their names of the scoresheet in the 18th and 20th minutes of the match. The icing on the cake came in the 90th minute when substitute Apostolos Giannou headed in.

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold told before the game that he expected a reaction from his players in their second match after a losing start in the tournament to Jordan. And a reaction he did get as Australia came out of the blocks flying against Palestine in Dubai.

Australia launched into the lead 18 minutes from kick off when Tom Rogic played in a delightful cross from wide right and Maclaren produce a glancing header to direct the ball past Palestinian goalkeeper Rami Hamad and score the first international of his fledgling Socceroos career.

The Green and Gold doubled their advantage two minutes later and this time it was Chris Ikonomidis, replacing Robbie Kruse, who came up with an equally good cross from the left to find Mabil at the far past. Mabil, a refugee from Kenya who moved Down Under when he was 11, just had to tap the ball in from the beautifully-weighted cross.

23-year-old Mabil could have bagged a brace in the 41st minute but the attacker blazed the ball over the goal after handed a prefect opportunity to score by a Maclaren pass. And so, it remained 2-0 as both the teams headed towards the dressing room for the half-time break.

It was more of the same in the second period and the crossbar came to Palestine’s rescue in the 53rd minute. Rhyan Grant played in a cross the right which rattled the crossbar off a deflection from Palestine defender Abdallah Jaber. Moments later, a header from Jackson Irvine skimmed the top of the goal on its way out.

Australia coasted through the second half and it was game, set and match for the Socceroos when Giannou, who came on as a replacement for goalscorer Maclaren, headed in at the far post from a short corner kick routine with barely no time left on the clock.

Australia coach Arnold will have plenty of positives to take from the match, but they suffered a setback when their centre-back Trent Sainsbury received a second yellow card of the tournament that forces him to sit out his team’s final and all-important group match against Syria in a few days’ time.

PALESTINE: Rami Hamada, Abdallah Jaber, Musab Battat, Abdallatif Al Bahdari, Alexis Norambuena, Tamer Seyam, Shadi Shaban, Mohammed Darwish, Jonathan Zorrilla (Oday Dabbagh 57′), Nazmi Albadawi (Mohammed Rashid 71′), Mahmoud Wadi (Khaled Salem 77′)

AUSTRALIA: Mathew Ryan, Aziz Behich, Milos Degenek, Trent Sainsbury, Rhyan Grant, Mark Milligan, Jackson Irvine, Chris Ikonomidis, Tom Rogic (Massimo Luongo 75′), Awer Mabil (Robbie Kruse 87′), Jamie Maclaren (Apostolos Giannou 82′)