Dubai: Australia scored two goals within three minutes to secure a handy 3-0 win and keep alive their chances of advancing in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
After ending up on the losing side against Jordan in last week’s Group B opener, Australia looked a changed side, dominating and creating chances at will against an opponent who stayed happy threatening the defending champions on the counter.
Making their fourth appearance in the continental showpiece, Australia played like champions with skipper Mark Milligan the true leader from his position as central defender.
With nearly 12,000 fans rooting for the two teams, Australia showed the urgency that was very much expected from them from the start.
After a few half-chances they finally managed to breach the otherwise sturdy Palestinian defence twice in quick succession midway through the first half.
Playing with a broken bone in his left hand, Tom Rogic turned provider for the opener in the 18th minute when his dainty cross saw Jamie Maclaren lend the faintest of knicks from his head and find the far corner of Rami Hamada’s goal.
The Socceroos maintained their pressure on the attacks and the Palestinian goal fell a second time in the 20th minute when Chris Ikonomidis’ exact cross was met by the easiest of tap-ins from Awer Mabil, who plays in Denmark for FC Midtjylland.
After that the men from Down Under stuck to keeping possession and mounting the rare counter when the opportunity came their way.
“Everything that was done today was done to get the win and the three points. Everyone delivered and we are pleased with the performance,” Australian coach Graham Arnold admitted.
“Syria have the same game plan like Jordan. Perhaps, we took a bit of time to get our game together as we have not had a long period of time together as a team. That said, we have learnt a lot from that Jordan game and we have worked hard to fix that issue. There have been a lot of changes in the team, but we will go all out to win against Syria,” he added.
The second half was more concise with both teams seemingly strained under the late afternoon heat. And even the tempo dropped a few notches, Australia still managed to make deep inroads into the Palestinian territory. They got a third goal one minute away from the full-time whistle when substitute Apostolos Giannou rose high to head a cross from Ikonomidis to seal full points.
Jordan have already qualified from the group following their 2-0 result against Syria on Thursday. Friday’s win keeps Australia in the hunt for the second spot with just the match against Syria left to be played at the Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain on January 15.
With just the one point following their goalless draw against Syria last week, Palestine have to a mountain to climb against group leaders Jordan at the Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium the same day.
“We had to sustain 100 per cent pressure from our opponents throughout the match. And when you look at the result, we feel this is a heavy result as compared to the previous game [against Syria]. To qualify we will need to get points and that will help us go through to the next stage,” Palestine’s Algerian coach Noureddine Ould Ali said.
“In the future if we want to win then we have to get the results. I don’t think we are out of the running for the next stage of the tournament,” he added.