Socceroos captain Mark Milligan is happy his side is getting “into the habit of scoring goals” after the defending champions thrashed Oman 5-0 in an Asian Cup warm-up.
Australia got off to a lively start with goals to Andrew Nabbout and Chris Ikonomidis in the first 13 minutes Monday morning (Australian time), with striker Awer Nabil adding a third on 23 minutes at the Maktoum Bin Rashid Stadium in Dubai.
The procession continued after the break with centre half Milos Degenek scoring his first international goal and replacement Jackson Irvine adding a thunderbolt right on full time.
“We’ve already gotten into the habit of scoring goals in training and we wanted to continue that today,” Milligan said.
“We ticked a number of boxes. We got some valuable minutes into a lot of us,” he added.
“The [Asian Cup’s] just around the corner and it was important we got a good hit out and focused on what we needed to do. And we did a lot of that.”
Australia dominated from the outset in cool, late afternoon conditions against the Gulf champions, although there was an element of good fortune and poor defending in both their opening goals.
The first in the ninth minute followed a hopeful long ball from defender Trent Sainsbury that Oman centre half Saad Suhail helpfully chested straight down to Nabbout, who cut inside and finished well from near the penalty spot.
Australia’s second was set up after Mustafa Amini found Mabil on the right, who flicked over the top for an unmarked Ikonomidis to slot home past Faiyz Al Rusheidi from inside the box.
The Socceroos were totally in control and went further ahead 10 minutes later when defender Aziz Behich got down the left and fired in a sharp cross that Mabil steered through the hapless Al Rusheidi’s legs.
There was more than an element of luck in Degenek’s fourth as he swung his right boot at Ikonomidis’ low corner on 51 minutes and the ball lobbed up and over the defence before landing in the top left corner.
“Obviously it was a fair bit of luck,” the Red Star Belgrade star admitted afterwards.
“I meant to flick it on obviously to the back post and was hoping that someone would be there to head it in, but … I just saw it land in the net,”Degenek said.
“I don’t normally score goals so I was quite happy. Last time we played against Lebanon, I hit the bar and [Martin Boyle] scored — now I’ve scored so it’s quite a nice feeling. It means something very special to me.”
The final goal in the last minute of normal time was the pick of the bunch, with Irvine flicking the ball up with his right foot before smashing a left foot volley across the keeper into the far corner.
Despite the margin of victory, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold said he felt his team still had a lot of room for improvement but “it was good to have that hit out”.
“It was good to give all those players minutes,” Arnold said.
“A lot of them their competition finished a while ago so they were lacking minutes. It was a good performance but there’s so much more to give,” he added.
“The consistency will come and I believe it will grow during the tournament.”
Australia begins its Asian Cup defence with a Group B clash against Jordan in Al Ain next Sunday (10pm AEDT).