Awer Mabil’s long-range rocket ensures Australia sink New Zealand
- Australia 1-0 New Zealand
- Socceroos beat All Whites in first encounter since 2011
A long-range rocket from Awer Mabil ensured Australia beat New Zealand 1-0 in their World Cup farewell in Brisbane.
The match, which took place a staggering 11 years after the two teams last met, was Australia’s first game since qualifying for the World Cup and their last on home soil before the tournament in Qatar in November. Aside from Mabil’s 33rd-minute strike, however, it was a far from pretty occasion for the hosts on a wet Thursday night at Suncorp Stadium.
The 27-year-old looked dangerous in space, curling his first long-range effort just wide of the right post before successfully finding the opposite corner minutes later. It was Mabil’s eighth goal for his country but first in Australia, coming on the back of his move to the Spanish side Cádiz.
Australia’s defence were sloppy in the first half but weren’t exploited by New Zealand, who looked sharp despite their World Cup qualification near-miss in June. “[It was] disappointing after the Costa Rica result, where I thought we were outstanding, and to lose again when I thought we dominated for long periods,” the All Whites coach, Danny Hay, said.
Australia were shaky in the early stages and their centre-back Trent Sainsbury was at the centre of it. The defender’s first pass was lobbed into the danger zone and then another poor touch gave New Zealand a second golden chance.
They took neither, though, and Sainsbury was then denied a goal of his own when his teammate Jackson Irvine was deemed to have knocked down a defender in a goalmouth scramble from a corner.
For New Zealand, the Empoli talent Liberato Cacace proved a menace on the left without finding the net, while the Newcastle United striker Chris Wood was physical in a friendly that had plenty of spark 100 years after the teams’ first meeting.
An effort from the Australia substitute Mat Leckie, which was deflected on to the post after Martin Boyle’s fast break, was the standout moment in a relatively subdued second half.
The Australia manager, Graham Arnold, who enjoyed his former mentor Guus Hiddink’s cameo as his assistant coach, made five changes to the side that started against Peru in their World Cup qualifier. But there were no major experiments, with many of the fresh faces in the 31-strong squad on the bench before this Sunday’s rematch in Auckland.
Adam Taggart and Ajdin Hrustic replaced Jamie Maclaren and Riley McGree early in the second half, while Leckie and Nathaniel Atkinson came on for Mabil and Fran Karacic with 20 minutes to play. Joel King and Connor Metcalfe then played the final minutes instead of Jackson Irvine and Aziz Behich.
Arnold said all but one of the starting side wouldn’t travel to New Zealand, as he had wanted to reward those who got the side to Qatar with a home game – and to assess their fitness by playing man-on-man – despite some arriving on the eve of the fixture.
“If there’s one thing disappointing I think we lost the physical battle,” Arnold said. “I wanted to reward the boys who gave a lot of sacrifices to get us through the campaign … now [in Auckland] it’s for the kids.”