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

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.


Injured Serena withdraws from French Open; Nadal cruises

Updated 01 October 2020

Injured Serena withdraws from French Open; Nadal cruises

  • The 39-year-old Williams, a three-time winner at Roland Garros, pulled out ahead of her second round match

PARIS: Serena Williams suffered another blow in her bid for a 24th Grand Slam title as the American withdrew from the French Open on Wednesday with an Achilles injury, while 12-time champion Rafael Nadal raced into the third round.

The 39-year-old Williams, a three-time winner at Roland Garros, pulled out ahead of her second round match against Tsvetana Pironkova citing the injury that prompted her to skip the Rome tuneup event.

“The Achilles didn't have enough time to heal after the US Open,” said Williams, who admitted last week she was not fully fit after her run to the semifinals in New York.

“I'm struggling to walk, so that's kind of a telltale sign that I should try to recover.”

The injury likely means she will miss the rest of 2020, leaving the Australian Open in 2021 as her next chance to equal Margaret Court's all-time majors record.

Nadal looked in ominous form as he stepped up his pursuit of Roger Federer's 20 major titles with a crushing win over 236th-ranked American Mackenzie McDonald.

The Spaniard batted aside McDonald 6-1, 6-0, 6-3 in exactly 100 minutes and will meet Japan's Kei Nishikori or Stefano Travaglia of Italy for a spot in the last 16.

“The aim was to play as well as possible. I'm very happy. I have another difficult match next,” said Nadal. The 34-year-old needs one more major to pull level with long-time rival Federer and owns an astonishing 95-2 record in Paris going back to his triumph on debut in 2005.

US Open champion Dominic Thiem swept into the third round with a 6-1, 6-3, 7-6 (8/6) victory over American qualifier Jack Sock, saving three set points to close out the match.

The Austrian third seed will play Norway's Casper Ruud, seeded 28th, or American Tommy Paul for a place in the last 16.

“I'm very happy with my game in the first two rounds. It was not an easy draw at all and I'm very happy not to drop a set,” said Thiem, who defeated 2014 US Open winner Marin Cilic in round one.

Dutch fifth seed Kiki Bertens had to be taken off court in a wheelchair after a fiery win over former finalist Sara Errani.

Bertens triumphed 7-6 (7/5), 3-6, 9-7 in a three-hour 11-minute clash which left her in cramps and Italian Errani screaming an obscenity as she left the court.

"After one hour, she's injured but then she's running around like never before," said Errani.

"She leaves the court in a chair and now she's in the locker room and eating in the restaurant, perfect. She exaggerated."

Bertens is due to meet Katerina Siniakova next while Elina Svitolina overcame Mexican qualifier Renata Zarazua 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.

The Ukrainian third seed is coming off a title at Strasbourg last week and will next play Russian 27th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, but was briefly taken aback by a sonic boom.

Stan Wawrinka, the 2015 French Open winner, followed up his demolition of Andy Murray with a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 defeat of Germany's Dominik Koepfer.

Sebastian Korda, the son of 1992 Roland Garros runner-up and 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda, also progressed after a four-sets victory over fellow American John Isner.