Australia edge Syria 1-0 to reach Asian Cup knockouts

Australia edge syria 1-0 to reach asian cup knockouts0

With an underwhelming 1-0 win against Syria on Thursday, Australia joined hosts and holders Qatar in the Asian Cup’s last 16.

On the hour mark, Jackson Irvine scored his second goal of the competition, swivelling in the area and poking the ball past custodian Ahmad Madanieh’s legs.

Graham Arnold’s Socceroos have advanced to the knockout round with one group game remaining, but they will need to perform better if they are to win the Asian Cup for the second time.

India will face Uzbekistan in the same group later in the day.

Syria, rated lower, almost took the lead just five minutes when Colombian-born attacker Pablo Sabbag pinged the ball off Australia’s post.

Aiden O’Neill’s wayward forearm resulted in a bleeding face for Sabbag halfway through the half, and the midfielder was booked.

However, Australia, who had advanced to the final 16 of the Qatar World Cup before losing 2-1 to eventual winners Argentina, were now in command.

Arnold chastised his team for failing to convert more set-pieces in their 2-0 opening victory against India, and Australia almost went ahead from a corner 10 minutes before half-time.

Defender Gethin Jones regained the ball with a looping header, while midfielder Irvine, who scored in India’s triumph, narrowly missed the ball on the stretch at the far post.

Syria, ranked 91 in the world versus Australia’s 25, had little chance as an offensive force inside the cramped Jassim bin Hamad Stadium, despite the best efforts of their ardent fans.

Hector Cuper’s team, who had drawn 0-0 with Uzbekistan, came alive towards the conclusion of the first half.

Winger Ammar Ramadan was a persistent danger, and he pulled a shot wide, ruffling the side net. A Sabbag effort from outside the box was bent over.

Arnold limped down the tunnel at halftime, shaking his head.

By the 57th minute, he’d had enough and made three substitutions, bringing in offensive midfielders Riley McGree and Samuel Silvera, as well as midfielder Keanu Baccus.

It worked, as Australia seized the lead three minutes later via midfielder Irvine, who is based in Germany.

They were generally comfortable after that, although goalkeeper Maty Ryan almost embarrassed himself when he mishandled a feeble long-range attempt in the 67th minute, rushing back to claw the ball off his goal-line.

The last round of Group B matches will take place on Tuesday, with Australia playing Uzbekistan and India facing Syria.

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