Sport Football Socceroos see off UAE 2-0 in World Cup qualifier

Socceroos see off UAE 2-0 in World Cup qualifier

Jackson Irvine
Australia's Bailey Wright, Mathew Leckie and Tomi Juric celebrate Jackson Irvine's opener. Photo: AAP
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It was nervy and it was tetchy, but the Socceroos just about got the job done to keep their stuttering World Cup qualifying campaign alive at the Sydney Football Stadium.

With ground to make up on Japan and Saudi Arabia and needing to win all their remaining home games, Australia kept their campaign chugging along with a 2-0 win over the United Arab Emirates.

Set-piece expertise came to the fore as a first-ever goal in international football for Jackson Irvine and a headed finish from Mathew Leckie — both coming from corners — saw the hosts home in a stop-start encounter.

There were early warning signs for the hosts when Ali Mabkhout nearly broke through, before Mat Ryan was forced to mop up on an uncertain backpass.

But those early nerves were soon settled when Irvine glanced in his first goal in national colours via a corner in the eighth minute.

That goal fired up Australia for a time, with Leckie spurning a chance from a sharp angle on the right just two minutes later.

At just 1-0 down, UAE was never out of it as star midfielder Omar Abdulrahman curled a good-looking free-kick towards goal, forcing Ryan into a diving parry.

A surging run from James Troisi saw him arrow in towards the UAE area, only to blaze his shot from outside the box over the bar, before Mark Milligan shot straight at the keeper from distance after a break down the left flank.

Australia probed throughout the second stanza without much reward, with Leckie nutmegging two players on the wing only to see his cross towards Brad Smith cut out at the last second.

Abdulrahman had a chance himself at the other end but shot straight at Ryan, before UAE’s frustrations were compounded when Leckie fouled the big-haired midfielder on the edge of the box, only for the referee to wave play on.

Leckie was involved in all of Australia’s best movements, robbing his man on the right flank, bursting forward and feeding Troisi, who could only blaze over from inside the area.

But the game was made safe on the 77th minute, via another corner, as Leckie rose highest to hit an unstoppable header home from Troisi’s delivery.

The win sees the Socceroos temporarily go level on points with Group B joint leaders Japan and Saudi Arabia, though both those teams have a game in hand on Australia.

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