The Socceroos have sealed their spot in the next stage of the AFC 2022 World Cup qualifiers with a 5-1 win over Chinese Taipei.
With the eight group winners and the four best runners-up to qualify for the third round of qualifiers, Australia’s perfect Group B record of 18 points from six matches is enough for them to progress.
On a bumpy pitch in Kuwait City, the Socceroos weren’t always fluent and wasted a host of chances against the worst team in their group, but they were rarely troubled in recording a sixth victory.
They did however concede just their second goal in their Group B campaign, with Chinese Taipei finding the back of the net – just as they did against the Socceroos two years ago in a 7-1 Australia win.
Not that it mattered, with the Socceroos’ attention now switching to their clash on Saturday morning against Nepal.
With a busy schedule of four matches in less than two weeks, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold made 11 changes – including the blooding of debutant Denis Genreau – to the side that started in Australia’s 3-0 win over Kuwait last Friday.
Giant defender Harry Souttar headed the Socceroos into the lead after just 12 minutes.
The 198cm Stoke City centre-back scored his fifth goal in just three Socceroos appearances when he outmuscled the Chinese Taipei defence to guide home a corner from Riley McGree,
The Socceroos doubled their lead in 27th minute through Melbourne City star Jamie Maclaren, who scored from the penalty spot after being fouled in the box by Chinese Taipei defender Wei-chuan Chen.
FULL TIME | Six wins in a row 👊
Next up: Nepal on Saturday morning (AEST). #AUSvTPE#AsianQualifiers#AllForTheSocceroospic.twitter.com/4gA1Bd2k3h
It should have been 3-0 just two minutes later after a save from goalkeeper Shin-an Shih off a Maclaren strike fellow into the path of Brandon Borrello.
But the former Brisbane Roar winger, who played in the German second division last season for Fortuna Dusseldorf, hit the post from point-blank range.
However, the Socceroos’ third goal did come in the 41st minute through captain Trent Sainsbury, who headed home a McGree corner.
Three became four less than a minute into the second half via a near-post header from Mitch Duke, who made the most of a chipped Borrello cross.
Chinese Taipei’s only moment of joy came just after the hour mark when an unmarked Wei-jie Gao produced a sweet finish that was too good for Socceroos goalkeeper Danny Vukovic.
However, Duke’s second goal of the match in the 84th minute sealed another Socceroos win.
Three more debutants
Starter Denis Genreau, and second-half substitutes Connor Metcalfe and Ruon Tongyik became the Socceroos’ latest debutants as coach Graham Arnold continued to the most of having a 31-man squad at his disposal for the block of four matches in Kuwait City.
Arnold’s revamped starting 11 also included Melbourne City defender Curtis Good, who had not played for Australia since his debut match in 2014.
Flying the A-League flag
Three of Australia’s five goals were scored by A-League players, with Western Sydney Wanderers attacker Mitch Duke grabbing a brace and Jamie Maclaren also finding the back of the net.
Four A-League players – Duke, Maclaren, Genreau and Good – were in Australia’s starting side, while two more, Metcalfe and Tongyik – came off the bench.
Australia 5 (Duke 46’ and 84’, Souttar 12’, Maclaren 27’, Sainsbury 41’) d Chinese Taipei 1 (Gao 62’)
Socceroos: Danny Vukovic, Rhyan Grant, Harry Souttar, Trent Sainsbury (c), Curtis Good, Denis Genreau (Ruon Tongyik 85’), Kenny Dougall (Connor Metcalfe 64’), Riley McGree (Ajdin Hrustic 74’), Brandon Borrello (Chris Ikonomidis 63’), Mitch Duke, Jamie Maclaren Nikita Rukavytsya 74’).
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