Socceroos take early advantage in World Cup qualifying after easing past China – The Guardian
Australia made the perfect start to the next step of World Cup qualifying, brushing aside an underwhelming China in a confident 3-0 win. Awer Mabil and Martin Boyle scored back-to-back first-half goals before second-half substitute Mitch Duke wrapped up the victory, as the Socceroos made it nine straight wins on the road to Qatar 2022.
The big win, coupled with Japan’s shock loss at home to Oman, means Australia have the early advantage in Group B as they look to secure qualification for a fifth straight World Cup. After a slow start, Australia kicked into gear with two goals in two minutes midway through the first half.
Mabil opened the scoring in the 24th minute, the winger acrobatically finishing after a goalmouth scramble when Adam Taggart’s dinked cross eluded the grasp of Chinese goalkeeper Yan Junling.
One became two moments later when Tom Rogic, playing for his country for the first time since 2019, released Boyle with a quick forward pass and the in-form Scotland-born attacker fired home from the edge of the box.
The win was wrapped up in the 70th minute when Duke, who had come on just moments before for Taggart, slotted home when Junling could only parry a Mabil strike into the forward’s path.
“Very proud of the performance and there’s only a lot more improvement left,” coach Graham Arnold said. “When you bring the family back together, even though they’ve been away for quite a while, the Socceroo family and that mateship of the boys is so crucial and important. I thought we were fantastic tonight.”
The only setback for Australia was when Boyle appeared to tweak his left hamstring before being substituted in the second half, putting him in doubt for Tuesday’s clash with Vietnam in Hanoi.
Otherwise it was all positive for Arnold with Mat Ryan untested in goal as Australia completed a seventh clean sheet in their past nine matches. It was also a successful return to Socceroos duties for Rogic and Aaron Mooy, who both appeared for the national team for the first time in two years, while fullback Callum Elder came off the bench to make his debut.
Goalscorer Mabil, who posed a constant threat to the disappointing and disjointed Chinese defence, said getting the third phase of qualifying off to a winning start sets the template for the group going forward.
“We’ve got more to come. We’re only just getting started,” Mabil said. “I’m really, really excited for what we’re going to do. It’s really nice that it’s starting to show, because we’re here to make history.”