Australia’s Asian Cup campaign is back on track after a comfortable win over Palestine in Dubai.
The Socceroos, beaten 1-0 by Jordan in their opening match, secured a 3-0 victory over a limited Palestine outfit to move into second in the group.
Jamie Maclaren’s first goal for the Socceroos in the 18th minute and a strike by Awer Mabil two minutes later gave Australia a 2-0 half-time lead before substitute Apostolos Giannou sealed the win in injury time in the second half.
Coach Graham Arnold made three changes to his starting line-up and all made a difference with Chris Ikonomidis, Jackson Irvine and Rhyan Grant starting in place of Robbie Kruse, Massimo Luongo and the injured Josh Risdon.
The victory means a point against Syria in their final group match in Al Ain on Tuesday will be enough to put the Socceroos into the competition’s knockout stages.
Arnold had demanded a reaction from his players to the Jordan match and he got it with Australia taking an early lead at the Rashid Stadium.
Maclaren, who had an air-swing inside the box in the game’s early stages, broke his duck for Australia in his 10th appearance for the national team to open the scoring.
The Hibernian striker’s angled header found the far corner of the net after a good cross by Tom Rogic.
Within two minutes the lead had doubled when Ikonomidis found Awer Mabil at the back post and the South Sudanese refugee slammed home from close range.
Irvine twice came close to extending the lead with headers while Mabil probably should have had a second when he skied a shot after some clever work by Maclaren.
Giannou, on for Maclaren, put some gloss on the performance when he nodded home an Ikonomidis cross at the far post in 90th minute.
The only blemish for Australia was a late yellow card for defender Trent Sainsbury for time-wasting, which rules him out of the Syria game due to suspension.
Palestine, who picked up their first Asian Cup point against Syria last Sunday, toiled hard but were limited to half chances with Sainsbury and Milos Degenek largely untroubled at the back.
Palestine’s final group match will be against group leaders Jordan in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.
Look back at how the action unfolded in our live blog.