Socceroos beat Lebanon 2-0 in AFC World Cup qualifier at Western Sydney Stadium


Injuries to Riley McGree and Jordy Bos have taken the shine off the Socceroos’ 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Lebanon in Sydney.

Australia moved a step closer to securing their spot in the final round of World Cup qualification after a 2-0 win over Lebanon, which was soured by injuries to Riley McGree and Jordy Bos.

Maiden international goals from midfielder Keanu Baccus and defender Kye Rowles helped secure victory for the Socceroos in front of 27,026 fans at Western Sydney Stadium on Thursday.

The result further strengthens Australia’s grip on top spot in Group I ahead of Tuesday’s rematch with the Lebanese in Canberra.

But Graham Arnold’s men could be without some significant firepower, with McGree (foot) and Bos (knee) both coming off with injury in the first half.

With Craig Goodwin missing on Thursday with a virus, injuries to Bos and McGree are less than ideal ahead of the trip to the national capital, where a win will secure Australia’s spot in the final qualification round.

Things got off to the perfect start for the Socceroos when local product Baccus recovered a loose Lebanese pass out of trouble in the fifth minute and floated a cross into the box.

The delivery was too far in front of strikers Kusini Yengi and Adam Taggart, but it also beat Lebanon’s goalkeeper Mostafa Matar, who was stuck in no-man’s land and unable to stop it floating past him and into the back of the net.

The goal was Baccus’s first at international level and fittingly came on his home turf.

He ran off cupping his ears to the crowd, but there was little for Australia to celebrate through the rest of the first half.

Taggart was played in by Harry Souttar to create one of the Socceroos’ best chances of the opening 45 minutes, but the in-form Perth man could only snatch at the opportunity.

Ten minutes after Baccus opened the scoring, McGree signalled to the sideline that he was in discomfort, and he was soon taken off for Bos.

McGree has battled plantar fasciitis while at Middlesbrough this season, and the fear ahead of next week’s game is that he may have suffered a recurrence of the same issue.

Arnold opted to bench Bos and start Rowles in his less-accustomed position of left back as a result of the former’s late arrival into Australia from club duty in Belgium.

But no sooner had Bos begun to spark the Socceroos’ attack, the 21-year-old pulled up with a knee issue and Ajdin Hrustic was thrown on in his place.

Lebanon were not causing many problems for Australia, but Rowles was troubled by some incisive runs and overlaps centred around captain Hassan Maatouk.

Australia weathered a late Lebanese storm before the break, with Rowles hacking in at a corner to lift the pressure and give the home side a 2-0 lead after 54 minutes.

From that point Lebanon never really looked like challenging Australia, except for one effort that hit the post in the final quarter of an hour.

Arnold threw on Mitch Duke and handed a debut to German-based striker John Iredale to see out the second half.

AAP

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