Ikonomidis leads the way with 8/10 for Australia as Socceroos beat Palestine
Australia bounced back from their opening loss in the Asian Cup, defeating Palestine with relative ease on Friday. Though their 3-0 win will settle some nerves, it was the sort of result the reigning champions should have expected against an opponent ranked 58 places beneath them and there will be harder tests to come.
The most noticeable difference for the Socceroos from the loss to Jordan last Sunday was the quality of delivery into the opposition penalty area. Too often in their last game crosses were sprayed in, hoping to hit the head of a teammate. This time, there was some purpose behind those passes, with the opening two goals coming from sublime balls by Tom Rogic and Chris Ikonomidis respectively.
Ball movement was still fairly slow in this game, so much so that after the first quarter of an hour it looked as though the Socceroos would put in another sluggish performance. They shrugged off that lethargy with two goals in as many minutes midway through the first half but, with all due respect to their opponents, Palestine's defence was exceptionally flimsy.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Graham Arnold made a couple of key changes to the starting XI in this second group game and each paid off. Rhyan Grant was lively at right-back, Jackson Irvine was everywhere in midfield and, perhaps most importantly, Ikonomidis added some spark in attack. However, after seeing his side finally turn their early possession into two goals, the former Sydney FC coach will not be particularly happy that it took until the 90th minute before they could add to their tally.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Mat Ryan, 6 -- A very quiet night for Australia's No. 1, who came out to play as an auxiliary sweeper when needed to allow the defence to maintain a high line.
DF Aziz Behich, 7 -- Sound in both attack and defence, Behich continues to make the left-back spot his own, despite some calling for the more attack-minded Alex Gersbach to be given the nod.
DF Milos Degenek, 7 -- A very solid performance in the middle of defence, though, in truth, the Red Star Belgrade man had very little to do throughout the 90 minutes.
DF Trent Sainsbury, 6 -- Similar to Degenek, Sainsbury seldom looked troubled by a pretty average Palestinian attack. However, he will miss the final group game against Syria after picking up a second yellow card for the tournament.
DF Rhyan Grant, 7 -- Showed off his exceptional engine, getting up and down the right touchline for the entire 90 minutes.
MF Mark Milligan, 7 -- Stable as ever in the middle of the pitch, Milligan kept the side ticking over in attack while doing a fine job of screening the back four in defence.
MF Jackson Irvine, 7 -- After earning a starting spot over Massimo Luongo, Irvine put in a really strong performance, getting involved right across the pitch and going close to scoring from a set-piece in the first half.
MF Tom Rogic, 7 -- One or two wonderful touches from the playmaker, including the assist to Jamie Maclaren which opened up the contest at a time when the Socceroos needed something special.
MF Chris Ikonomidis, 8 -- A sweet cross to set-up a tap-in for Awer Mabil was the highlight of an impressive overall performance. Having been injected into the starting line-up for this game, the position is now surely his to lose for the remainder of the tournament.
MF Awer Mabil, 7 -- Scored a well-taken goal from close range and had a number of other half-chances, though he didn't get in behind the defence as often as expected.
FW Jamie Maclaren, 7 -- After producing one of the misses of the tournament in the early exchanges, the diminutive striker opened the scoring -- somewhat surprisingly -- with a header.
MF Massimo Luongo, N/A -- Did little to convince that he should return to the starting line-up after replacing Rogic for the final quarter of an hour.
FW Apostolos Giannou, N/A -- Headed in from a set-piece in the final minute to round out the scoring, making the most of his limited game time.
MF Robbie Kruse, N/A -- Barely had time to get involved, indicating his days as a starting player may now be over.