It was workmanlike rather than spectacular, and not quite the goal blitz that coach Graham Arnold had demanded, but the Socceroos did what they had to, seeing off Chinese Taipei 5-1 in their World Cup qualifier in Kuwait on Tuesday morning (AEST).
It was Australia’s sixth win in a row, and the victory guarantees them a spot in the final phase of qualifying for the next World Cup in Qatar.
The victory was the Socceroos’ sixth from six starts in qualifying for Qatar 2022 and follows last week’s defeat of Kuwait.Credit:AP
They did not match their lightning start against Kuwait, when the Socceroos set the tone with an opening-minute goal but, by half-time, Australia’s all-new XI had put the game to bed.
That they did so only through set-pieces was, however, unexpected, with the goals coming from two Riley McGree corners converted by centre-backs Harry Souttar and Trent Sainsbury respectively and a penalty by Jamie Maclaren.
Arnold, as he had signalled, made sweeping changes and started a different line-up to that which had beaten Kuwait 3-0 on Friday morning. Denis Genreau, who was born in Paris, became the first French-born player to turn out for Australia when he made his debut as part of a midfield which also included McGree and Kenny Dougall, who were making their first starts in national colours.
Brandon Borrello got a start, Trent Sainsbury wore the captain’s armband, Danny Vukovic came in between the posts while the feelgood story was surely that of Curtis Good, making his first appearance in the green and gold since his debut more than seven years ago.
Good has had an outstanding season for Melbourne City and is keen to make up for lost time: had he not sustained an injury in 2014 he would probably have been part of Ange Postecoglou’s squad in Brazil at the World Cup, and for several years it looked as though the hip flexor injury he was battling might force him to quit the game.
Chinese Taipei at least tackled their impossible task with gusto, even threatening with some attacking moves in the second minute.
But after that the game settled into the expected rhythm. Borrello headed over from a Dougall cross, Genreau made space and drove high and wide before McGree’s weaving run gave him the space to shoot, his effort deflected wide for a corner.
Sainsbury headed over from that set-piece, but from the follow-up the 198cm Souttar, a colossus against smaller opponents, made the breakthrough, heading home McGree’s delivery.
Chinese Taipei almost stunned Australia in the 17th minute when forward Emilio Estevez – one of whose parents is Spanish – rounded Rhyan Grant and fired in a good effort at the near post which Vukovic had to deal with smartly to concede a rare corner.
The Socceroos got the second in the 27th minute when Chen Wei Chuan brought down Maclaren in the area, the striker converting from the spot.
Australia hit the woodwork twice in two minutes just before the half-hour mark, first through McGree before Borrello somehow hit the post rather than convert from close range when the ball fell to him from a Shin save.
Chinese Taipei were saved by the frame of the goal once more in the 40th minute when Souttar was denied with his header from a McGree corner.
The third came four minutes before the interval when from yet another corner Sainsbury headed home at the far post.
Arnold’s men finally got a goal from open play seconds after the restart when Genreau slid a pass through to Borrello whose clipped cross was headed home by Duke.
To their credit Chinese Taipei never dropped their heads and Jui-Chieh Chen shot on to the roof of the net.
On the hour mark they got the reward when Tu-Shao Chieh got to the byline before cutting a pass back to the unmarked Wei-Jie Gao who side-footed accurately past Vukovic.
Duke got his second in the 84th minute, sweeping home after Nikita Rukavytsya laid off an Ajdin Hrustic pass.
Melbourne City’s Connor Metcalfe and South Sudan-born Ruon Tongyik became Australia’s latest internationals when they came off the bench in the second half.
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