Australia warn rivals they are only getting started after victory over Palestine

The Aussie were just too good for the Palestinians. (AFP)
Updated 11 January 2019
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Australia warn rivals they are only getting started after victory over Palestine

  • Socceroos bounce back from shock defeat to Jordan.
  • Coach now claims they are the team to beat in the UAE.

LONDON: Australia’s victory over Palestine is just the start, the Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has warned. 

Having lost their Group B opener 1-0 to Jordan, the defending champions went into the match with several question marks hanging over them. That result was the tournament’s first shock and left many wondering whether the Aussies would fail to get out of the group and so suffer an embarrassing early exit. But after the Jordan setback Arnold promised his side would learn from the defeat, move on and improve, and on the evidence of the 90 minutes in Dubai against the Palestinians his guarantee was as strong as the performance. 

Goals from Hibernian striker Jamie Maclaren, Awer Mabil and substitute Apostolos Giannou banished memories of the shock Jordan defeat and moved the Socceroos to second in the group behind their first-match conquerors. 

Having secured their first points of the tournament Arnold then issued a warning to Australia’s rivals claiming there was a lot more to come from his team. 

“As I said after the Jordan game, when you lose, you learn,” the Socceroos coach explained.

“And we learned a lot from that day We went onto the training pitch, we worked hard to fix the issues if the opponents play defensively.

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

Australia did indeed arrive in the UAE with several familiar faces missing either through retirement (Tim Cahill) or injury (Aaron Mooy). So perhaps it is no shock, with hindsight, that they started slowly and with a loss to Jordan. But having got that vital first win under their belts they still have to get a result against Syria to ensure progression. 

While the Syrians seem in disarray, having taken just one point form their two matches and subsequently sacked coach Bernd Stange, Arnold is all too aware that the side possess some fine players and are more than capable of beating his Socceroos. 

“Now it’s all about the Syria game,” Arnold said.

“This will be a difficult game. We know them well having played against them in the World Cup qualifier. 

“We’ll go back to the training field, we’ll recover well and we’ll go out for the Syria game with all guns blazing, expecting to win.”

Against Palestine Arnold dropped the under-performing Massimo Luongo and Robbie Kruse in favor of Jackson Irvine and Chris Ikonomidis, who impressed as substitutes against Jordan.

And it was a far more dynamic team that opened their account on 18 minutes, when Celtic’s Tom Rogic picked out Maclaren, who scored his first international goal with a glancing header.

Two minutes later and the Socceroos were 2-0 up as Ikonomidis lofted a ball to the far post, where Mabil sneaked in unmarked for a first-time finish.

Substitute striker Giannou made the final scoreline reflect Australia’s dominance, nodding a third for Australia in the final minute.


Late winner dumps Syria out of Asian Cup following survival of the fittest battle against Socceroos

Updated 15 January 2019
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Late winner dumps Syria out of Asian Cup following survival of the fittest battle against Socceroos

  • Syria boss left to rue side's lack of stamina as Aussie hit last-minute winner.
  • Result dumped Syria out of the tournament.

AL-AIN: Syria were left to lament that they came off second best in a survival of the fittest battle against the Socceroos.  

That was the opinion of the side’s stand-in coach Fajr Ibrahim who felt that there was not much to separate the two sides in terms of ability, but claimed the Aussies were able to win 3-2 due to their superior fitness levels. 

The defeat dumped Syria out of the Asian Cup at the first hurdle, and Ibrahim, who took charge foolowing Bernd Stange's shock  sacking following their defeat by Jordan, was left to rue his players’ lack of stamina compared to their Australian opponents. 

"Fitness was the critical factor," Ibrahim said.

"There wasn't a big difference apart from the fitness of the Australian team. They were superior.”

Considering the league that the majority of the Socceroos play in compared to the Syrians, the coach was probably right when talkng about the fitness levels of the two sides. In which case he had every right to be proud of his players. They only fell to defeat by virtue of a Tom Rogic's injury-time thunderbolt.

The result meant the Socceroos finished second in Group B behind Jordan, whose simultaneous 0-0 draw with Palestine gave the Palestinians hope of qualifying as one of the best third-placed teams.

Syria, vocally backed by thousands of their fans in Ai-Ain, twice fought back from a goal behind before Rogic slammed home the winner in the third minute of injury time.

Injury-hit Australia, with only six outfield players on the bench, needed just a draw to go through and they got there — but there were twists along the way.

“It was a helter-skelter game at times,” Australia coach Graham Arnold said.

“On another night we could've scored more goals but it was a great learning process for our young players. It was a good performance just in terms of the grit and determination.”

Syria looked an early threat before Australia started to get a grip on the game and Hibernian striker Jamie Maclaren flashed a header just wide.

There was drama on the half-hour when a Syrian free-kick bounced through a packed penalty area and into the net, but the goal was ruled out for a foul on Mark Milligan.

But Australia were getting close and Awer Mabil, after seeing one raking shot blocked, unleashed a fabulous effort which curled into the top corner four minutes before half-time.

However, the lead lasted just two minutes as Mouaiad Alajaan's cross picked out birthday boy Omar Khrbin, turning 25 on Tuesday, who saw his header saved by Brighton's Mathew Ryan but then gobbled up the rebound.

On 54 minutes, there was controversy when Chris Ikonomidis's shot was hooked away by Omar Al Midani — but the ball was judged to have crossed the line by the additional assistant referee, who was surrounded by Syrian players.

The incident silenced the massed ranks of Syrian fans but there was uproar around the stadium shortly afterwards when their team vehemently claimed a penalty for a Milligan handball.

Australia looked firmly in control and they could have had a third goal when substitute Apostolos Giannou saw a low shot cannon off the base of the upright.

But Mexican referee Cesar Ramos threw Syria a lifeline when he gave them a penalty after Omar Al Soma went down in the box — and the striker stroked them level once more with 10 minutes to go.

It looked like Syria would escape with a vital point before Celtic's Rogic, playing the tournament with a broken hand, belted Australia's third from distance.