After so long, Australian fans only had to wait another four days to see their Socceroos in action yet again. With World Cup Qualifiers coming thick and fast, we saw a tall defender’s favourite opponent on the pitch yet again – after comfortably winning 7-1 in our last outing against Chinese Taipei – in matchday six of the second round of World Cup Qualifiers.
Despite being on top during the opening minutes of the game, the Socceroos found it difficult to get a meaningful shot on goal with Brandon Borrello heading high, followed by Riley McGree and Jamie Maclaren trading blocked shots. This issue was unsurprisingly rectified in a corner by McGree, which found the towering Harry Souttar for his 5th goal in just 3 games – which for a centre-back, is unheard of.
Danny Vukovic had to be sharp, pulling off a smart save to his near post shortly after Harry’s header, as Chinese Taipei did not look the type to just lay down and watch the match go by. This was, of course, prior to Maclaren proving his worth by stealing the ball up field and promptly winning a penalty – which was dispatched with the confidence of a man who has just won his third A-League golden boot. Practically playing a training match at this point, the Socceroos looked complacent in general play as it took another set piece for Trent Sainsbury to find the back of the net from a simple header at the back post.
Other than terrific possession and strong set pieces, the Socceroos looked rather lethargic against opposition which manager Graham Arnold would demand domination against. In the second half, this was quickly addressed, as Borrello finds an otherwise absent Mitchell Duke for a guided header against the advancing goalkeeper after no more than 19 seconds into the half.
Despite Genreau pulling the strings from midfield, Australia found it difficult to break through against a resolute defence – in which Chinese Taipei took full advantage – scoring what seemed to be a defendable chance, after Wei-Jie Gao finds acres of space in the penalty area on his second match for his country to slice the ball into the side netting.
Gladly, Mitchell Duke was able to get a second goal, to ensure the victory was more convincing after Ajdin Hrustic finds fellow substitute Nikita Rukavytsya with an outrageous ball, who cuts it back to the ‘Duke of Wanderland’.
Other than the concerning performance in the second half, it was a feel-good kind of night – with Curtis Good making his return to the national team after more than 7 years. Not to mention, debutants Denis Genreau, Connor Metcalfe signified the importance of an established academy – both being Melbourne City youngsters in their junior careers, now Socceroos. Ruon Tongyik made his debut as well, coming on after struggling to establish his career for a few years, the strong defender is now an important part for a fantastic Central Coast side. Hoping to see more from these boys, fans should note it is an exciting transitional period for the Australian squad.
At 5-1, the score line may flatter Australia as it very well could have been more, with Australia officially registering 78% of the possession and 29 shots. To further the point, Mitchell Duke states in his post-match interview that the performance could “have been more polished”.
By all means, the squad can be forgiven with only limited time together and plenty of fresh faces; but with Nepal and Jordan on the horizon, Graham Arnold must be looking at establishing a clear first 11 and working quickly on ironing out those creases.