Australia 3 Palestine 0
January 11 – Defending champions Australia bounced back from their 1-0 defeat against Jordan to breeze past Palestine 3-0 and climb to second spot in Group B on three points.
The Socceroos entered the game in crisis mode following a surprise defeat in their first outing against Jordan. Bottom of Group B, they needed all three points against Palestine and coach Graham Arnold made a triple change to his starting eleven, with Rhyan Grant, Chris Ikonomidis and Jackson Irvine all coming in from the loss to Vital Borkelmans’s team.
Palestine had failed to register a single shot on target in their goalless 10-men draw with Syria, which didn’t deter coach Nourredine Ould Ali from reinforcing his midfield with Shadi Shaban, but Palestine’s game plan quickly went out of the door as the Australians scored twice inside the first 20 minutes.
In the 18th minute striker Jamie Maclaren scored his first international goal with a header from a Tom Rogic assist and in quick-fire succession Awer Mabil, left unmarked at the far post, tapped in Australia’s second from close range to silence the partisan crowd at a packed Rashid Stadium and dispel Australia’s goalscoring concerns.
Mabil’s goal was his third goal in six appearances since his debut against Kuwait in October and in the 41st minute he squandered a good opportunity to add to his tally after both Abdallatif Albahdari and Musab Battat failed to close down Maclaren inside the box.
After half time, Jackson Irvine and Rhyan Grant came close early on for the Socceroos. Ould Ali responded by deploying 20-year-old winger Oday Dabbagh from the bench, but it did little to break Australia’s dominance. Palestine sustained their massed defending with damage control the order of the day. In the pre-tournament calculus a 2-0 defeat was acceptable for the Palestinians and the game’s pace suffered.
In the last ten minutes, Arnold’s team suffered two minor setbacks as Mabil limped off and a yellow for Trent Sainsbury meant he will miss their next match, but substitute Apolstolos Giannou’s glancing header capped off an easy victory for the reigning champions.
In their final group game Australia face a Syrian side in turmoil after the dismissal of their German coach Bernd Stange. The Palestinians wrap up Group B against Jordan, who on six points have already qualified for the knockout rounds.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1702260684labto1702260684ofdlr1702260684owedi1702260684sni@o1702260684fni1702260684