Sport Football Socceroos bounce back with solid win over Palestine
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Socceroos bounce back with solid win over Palestine

asian cup socceroos v palestine
Socceroo Awer Mabil celebrates after scoring his team's second goal against Palestine in Dubai. Photo: Getty
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Graham Arnold’s Socceroos have ensured their ongoing survival in the 2019 Asian Cup, bouncing back from their shock opening game defeat to record a strong, but not completely dominant, 3-0 win over Palestine on Friday night.

Jamie Maclaren’s first international goal set the tone for the Socceroos, an Awer Mabil goal just two minutes later added further emphasis before a strike by substitute striker Apostolos Giannou in the 90th minute put a bow on an assertive performance from the Australians.

Pressure on the Socceroos was intense ahead of the contest: Jordan’s 2-0 win over Syria on Thursday night already ensuring that Australia could, at best, only finish second in Group B.

Nevertheless, the defending Asian Cup champions struck a defiant tone, captain Mark Milligan declaring that the shock 1-0 defeat to Jordan was soon to be a “distant memory” and coach Arnold being bombastic as ever.

“I’m expecting a great reaction from the players and the boys,” Arnold had promised.

“We go into this game with a lot of confidence and a lot of belief and expectation to win.”

Despite the confidence, the poor display against Jordan did claim some victims, with Robbie Kruse and Massimo Luongo dropped from the starting XI in favour of Chris Ikonomidis and Jackson Irvine.

Josh Risdon was also absent, with the injured right-back replaced by Rhyan Grant.

Spared the axe was leading man Maclaren, although early signs were not promising for the 25-year-old.

The Hibernian striker fluffed a golden opportunity that would have had Australia ahead after just three minutes when he fell over himself attempting to turn in a fantastic low cross laced in from the left by Ikonomidis.

Australia needed a circuit breaker, something to break the tension and, mercifully, it came in the 18th minute.

It was a goal that was seemingly tailor-made to silence all the doubters who emerged following the Jordan game. Tom Rogic – under intense criticism in the wake of the Jordan contest – avoided the challenge of Tamer Seyam and drifting a cross into the area.

The diminutive Maclaren then rose to meet it, getting a perfectly weighted glancing touch on the ball to direct it into the bottom corner of the goal before wheeling away in jubilant celebration.

Socceroos fans then barely had a moment to stop celebrating before it was 2-0.

Breaking quickly on the counter, left-back Aziz Behich danced down the left before laying the ball off to Iknomodis.

Finding space, the Perth Glory winger floated a cross to the back post, where a grateful Mabil was waiting to hammer home.

Mabil perhaps should then have made it 3-0 just four minutes before the halftime whistle, instead putting a shot over the bar after Maclaren slid a ball left into his path.

Though it didn’t possess the same attacking endeavour that had been demonstrated in the first half, the Socceroos remained in control when play resumed in the second stanza as they comfortably contained a Palestinian outfit forced to come out of their shell to chase the game.

Though clear goal-scoring chances came at a premium, Giannou was able to take a late chance as the game ticked over to stoppage time, heading in an Ikonomidis cross after the Socceroos worked a short corner to put the cherry on the sundae.

With their Asian Cup campaign still alive, Australia will now shift their focus to the early hours of Wednesday morning (AEDT), when they face familiar foes, Syria.

“They’ll be much more assured of themselves going into that next game,” former Socceroo Bruce Djite said on Fox Sports after the win.

“They’ll start feeling again like they are the reigning champions.

“This is a good step in the right direction.

They will meet Syria without the services of Trent Sainsbury, however, after 84th-minute yellow card ensured the defender would be suspended for the meeting.

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