Palestine 0-3 Australia: Asian Cup 2019 – as it happened

  • Maclaren, Mabil, and Giannou score in Australia’s first win
  • Socceroos move up to second place in Group B


Graham Arnold finally has something to build on after watching his Socceroos overcome a spirited but limited Palestine in Dubai. The performance was much better than against Jordan in Australia’s tournament opener but it still wasn’t much to get excited about against far weaker opposition.

Arnold’s selection changes worked. Chris Ikonomidis was outstanding in place of Robbie Kruse while Jackson Irvine did what was asked of him in midfield after being selected ahead of Massimo Luongo. The decision to retain the under fire Jamie Maclaren also worked, the striker repaying his coach’s faith with a well-taken first-half goal, though he was largely anonymous thereafter.

Mark Milligan ran the game from the base of midfield and his long diagonal passes offered a more effective mode of attack than anything Australia produced against Jordan. Both Aziz Behich and Rhyan Grant benefited from the service, as did the lively Awer Mabil.

The one negative from the showing was a second yellow card of the tournament for Trent Sainsbury, ruling him out of the crucial final group match with Syria. It remains to be seen if Arnold goes for a like-for-like replacement or shuffles his pack and returns Milligan to defence.

That is a question for another day, one that can be approached in high spirits after the defending champions opened their account at Asian Cup 2019.

That’s all from me for now, see you back here for the Syria game on Wednesday night.

Jackson Irvine performed well for Australia against Palestine.
Jackson Irvine performed well for Australia against Palestine. Photograph: François Nel/Getty Images

Palestine 0-3 Australia

A much better day at the office for the defending champions.

Australia’s players celebrate after scoring during the AFC Asian Cup group B soccer match between Australia and Palestine at Rashid Stadium in Dubai.
Australia’s players celebrate after scoring during the AFC Asian Cup group B soccer match between Australia and Palestine at Rashid Stadium in Dubai. Photograph: Nariman El-Mofty/AP

GOAL! Palestine 0-3 Australia (Giannou 90)

From the resulting corner the short one-two ends with Ikonomidis chipping over to the far post for Giannou to nod home unmarked after timing his run to perfection. Cherry, meet cake.


89 mins: The sting is out of this game now, Australia confidently circulating possession and running down the clock. Eventually they decide to attack and some neat play from Kruse, Grant and latterly Ikonomidis almost ends in a Palestinian own goal.

87 mins: That’s the last we’ll see of Mabil today, replaced by Kruse for the final few minutes. Not sure what anybody gains out of that sub, but there we go.

86 mins: Two more times Mabil runs at Palestine’s defence, the second of those he cuts inside and shoots with his left foot but it’s straight at Rami Hamada.

85 mins: With players tired and Palestine chasing a result the game is becoming stretched. Mabil almost takes advantage of the increasing space by sending over a teasing cross but Giannou can’t win the contested header.

83 mins: Cheap yellow card for Sainsbury for time-wasting. That he means he misses the Syria game.

81 mins: Credit to Maclaren for executing a one-man press late in the game, hassling Palestine’s back four to maintain a territorial advantage. His reward is to be hooked by Graham Arnold, replaced by Apostolos Giannou.

79 mins: Australia look in control now, dominating territory and applying two midfield screeners to snuff out any hint of Palestine counter-attacking. Mabil’s quick feet earn a corner but for the second game running Australia’s set-pieces have been poor. Mabil the culprit against Jordan, Ikonomidis tonight. Aaron Mooy is sorely missed.

77 mins: Wadi can’t overcome his bout of cramp and Palestine’s most dangerous player is replaced by Khaled Salem. No more subs left for the side chasing the game.

76 mins: After a moment of reflection I can say with confidence this has been a scrappy second half.

75 mins: First change for Australia and it sees Tom Rogic rested for the final 15 minutes with Massimo Luongo taking his place.

73 mins: More danger from Palestine and again its Wadi, this time rising well at the far post to win a deep cross but there’s nobody in red in the danger zone to pick up the scraps. The big No 19 lands and immediately doubles over with cramp which provokes liberal application of the magic spray.

71 mins: The Socceroos respond positively, again down the right, and again through the overlapping Grant but his latest teasing cross fails to find a gold shirt in the box.

Nathmi Albadawi replaced by Mohammed Rashid in Palestine’s second substitution.

70 mins: First moment of real quality going forward for Palestine. Mahmoud Wadi tricked his way into the box down the right but a lack of support limits his options at the death and Australia smuggle the ball clear.

69 mins: Irvine’s been a smart introduction this game. He’s done the simple things in midfield, looked a threat in the air, and put his foot in when it’s been required. His physicality has matches Palestine’s aggressive intent.

66 mins: Watching Ikonomidis show his control and strength on the left and cut inside on his right before spreading an intelligent pass with his right foot gives cause for great optimism. The pass to Grant ended in a wasted opportunity but the glimpses of Ikonomidis’ class suggest Robbie Kruse may struggle to return to first XI for some time.

64 mins: Someone on TV just mentioned Jamie Maclaren’s name. I confess I forgot he was playing. He took his goal well, missed a sitter, but otherwise hasn’t done a great deal.

61 mins: Ikonomidis shoots weakly from range, but he’s forgiven after fashioning the chance himself with a Zidane-like first-touch and spin near halfway. The Glory forward landed awkwardly after he shot though and is visited by the physio. Fortunately he’s well enough to jog off and receive a jocular bum tap from the gaffer.


60 mins: Two goals up, one of those spells of slow possession in front of the Palestinian defence suddenly looks like skilful game management, instead of the maddening waste of time it appeared against Jordan.

59 mins: Palestine are giving it their all trying to work a way back into this contest but there is little quality in the middle or final third.

57 mins: First Palestinian change of the night sees Zorrilla replaced by Dabbagh.

55 mins: If Australia targeted the left in the first half it’s been all down the right in the second. Grant has seen plenty of the ball in attacking areas and his latest cross is deflected onto his own crossbar by Abdallah Jaber. The Socceroos keep up the pressure and from a resulting corner Irvine wins another header that just creeps over the bar.

Australia are dominant in these early stages of the half but that still doesn’t stop Rogic from earning a yellow card for lazily encroaching at an innocuous free-kick.

52 mins: Some of Palestine’s defending has been borderline, either full-blooded in midfield or last ditch closer to goal. I would not be surprised to see a penalty before the 90 minutes is up. Before that, Rogic has a free-kick opportunity from the edge of the D, earned after skipping over one of those last ditch challenges, but it’s a tame set-piece into the wall and cleared.

50 mins: Ikonomidis has been excellent for Australia. Always looking for possession, working hard to create space for teammates, and getting his head up when he has the ball. Ideally suited to this three-pronged forward line.

49 mins: Decent work by Australia down both flanks but first Mabil then Irvine can’t capitalise. That second effort was again the result of the referee finding something wrong with the Hull City man’s jumping technique.

48 mins: With the sun setting across the Rashid Stadium Mat Ryan has come out with a cap in this second half and it is a very village AFC number. One must presume he either forgot to bring one of his own or it wasn’t approved for some reason.

46 mins: The second half is underway with a couple of themes from the first: a long diagonal from Milligan towards Irvine who’s penalised for an illegal jump.

Although I wonder if for most of those late arrivals there’s a touch of the Burton Albion fans stuck on the M6 while their boys were being shellacked by Man City.

“Maybe this game is all about the win and to build confidence, given the disruptions with injury, as hopefully we progress into the tournament?” asks Marzi De Santi. Indeed, and picking a couple of in-form players like Ikonomidis and Irvine has certainly made that job a lot easier. Hopefully Maclaren’s goal will mean he can finally show the form that earned him an opportunity at this level.

“Absolutely superb” says Mark Bosnich. Not sure I’d go that far but definitely an improvement.

Seems that sell-out might be on after all but for whatever reason it’s taken an age for fans to filter from the concourse into the stadium.

Half-Time: Palestine 0-2 Australia

Australia head to the break a comfortable two goals to the good. Far from vintage from the Socceroos but better than Palestine, so far.

Awer Mabil of Australia celebrates scoring during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup group B soccer match between Palestine and Australia in Dubai.
Awer Mabil of Australia celebrates scoring during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup group B soccer match between Palestine and Australia in Dubai. Photograph: Mahmoud Khaled/EPA

45 mins: Mark Milligan is receiving plenty of praise on social media and on TV. He has been responsible for providing a more direct approach from the base of midfield, getting the ball forward earlier than against Jordan, allowing the likes of Ikonomidis and Rogic more opportunities to attack without being outnumbered.

43 mins: This has not been the kind of performance to strike fear into the hearts of Japan or South Korea, but it offers Graham Arnold something to build on.

41 mins: After a few quiet minutes going forward Australia should be three up. Maclaren gets lucky in the box but keeps his composure to feed Mabil but he fires over from the edge of the six-yard box on a narrow angle.

39 mins: Couple of openings for Palestine but long balls into Australia’s box are repelled. An attack with the ball at the feet of Nathmi Albadawi looks even more promising but a questionable challenge near the D goes unpunished.

36 mins: Ah, that yellow card was for Zorilla pushing the referee after failing to see punishment meted out to Behich for the stray elbow.

35 mins: Aziz Behich has been involved in a few push and shoves this half and in the latest he catches Jonathan Zorrilla with a stray elbow. Not a lot in it but you’ve seen incidents like that land players in hot water. There’s a suggestion the Palestinian received a yellow card for his part in that delay but I can’t confirm, nor understand why he might have bene cautioned.

33 mins: Another Irvine header from a set-piece almost ends in a goal. From a deep central position Milligan floated the ball towards the penalty spot and the onrushing Irvine made it his in the manner of peak Tim Cahill but he couldn’t direct his effort on target. Irvine had no right to win that header but did so powerfully.

30 mins: Some of the referee’s decisions are a bit hard to fathom. At times he lets the game flow a la an Old Firm derby in the mid-80s, at others finding fouls where none appeared to exist. Palestine are certainly giving everything in the contest, making a host of sliding challenges and escaping without any bookings so far.

27 mins: Australia are still far from fluent in possession and far from secure without the ball but Palestine have not displayed the same level as Jordan, yet. The ability of Ikonomidis and Mabil to find space between the lines alongside Rogic has been much more noticeable. That in turn has created more room for the full-backs.


25 mins: “McLaren has copped a lot of stick playing for the Socceroos,” emails Marzi De Santi. “Brilliant that he has got the monkey off his back!”. Some of that stick has been from me Marzi, some of it around the three-minute mark of today’s game, but he has answered his critics with a lovely header.

23 mins: Almost a third but Irvine’s towering header from a loopy corner ricochets off an unwitting Palestinian defender.

GOAL! Palestine 0-2 Australia (Mabil 20)

Crisis? What crisis? Australia make it two in the blink of an eye. Again some good work down the left between Behich and Ikonomidis ends with the latter placing an inch perfect cross into the run of Mabil, steaming in at the far post to sidefoot home.


GOAL! Palestine 0-1 Australia (Maclaren 18)

Out of nothing, Australia are ahead. Slow, patient possession near halfway looks like it’s going nowhere until the ball finds Rogic on the right. The Celtic star shows great feet to beat his man, cut inside and then fire over a vicious inswinging cross with his left foot that Jamie Maclaren flicks on unerringly into the bottom corner. Graham Arnold breathes a Big. Sigh. Of. Relief.


15 mins: First glimpse of Mabil’s trickery in the box but his shot from 15 yards is charged down. Slight delay while the referee explains to Irvine that what’s acceptable in the air in East Yorkshire is not in Dubai. The Hull City utility looks frustrated for being repeatedly penalised for contesting headers in midfield.

13 mins: After Australia show their vulnerabilities against set pieces they break dangerously, once again Behich the target of a deep diagonal. He wins a corner but it carries little threat.

11 mins: Australia look to have settled into their rhythm now, recycling possession from one side to the other, waiting for the opening. The latest arrives from the right and the overlapping Grant and he whips over a super cross that three gold shirts dive towards but none can connect with.

9 mins: A feature of Australia’s play early on are the medium to long range diagonals from Mark Milligan. They come with an obvious turnover risk though with Palestine winning the initial aerial battle a couple of times and then breaking at speed.

7 mins: The first sloppy turnover in midfield for Australia leads to a speculative strike from range that almost skews into a handy throughball. From the resulting throw-in the Socceroos are almost caught napping but a late challenge blocks the shooting opportunity from a narrow angle. Palestine are up for this.

5 mins: “There’s no way to dress that up, it’s a horrible miss,” says Andy Harper on TV about Maclaren’s miscue. It only gets worse with every replay. The chance reflects how much joy Australia are having down the left hand side, Behich playing near enough as a winger in these early exchanges.

3 mins: First spell of attacking play is down Australia’s left with Behich to the fore and Ikonomidis lively. That pair combine again a few seconds later with the Glory man centring perfectly to tee up Maclaren on the penalty spot but the Hibernian striker takes an ugly air swing with his left foot when a goal was at his mercy. That chance was better than any Australia created against Jordan and Maclaren butchered it.

1 min: First thing to note is there is plenty of noise in Dubai and it’s mostly behind the side in red. Second thing to note, if this is a sell-out, I am a billionaire. Swathes of empty seats around this open arena.


We’re underway at the Rashid Stadium!

Your referee tonight is Valentin Kovalenko from Uzbekistan.

It’s anthem time in Dubai. Australia have arrived bedecked in gold, Palestine in red.

Palestine supporters in full voice at the Rashid Stadium.
Palestine supporters in full voice at the Rashid Stadium. Photograph: François Nel/Getty Images

If this all gets a bit too stressful, have a laugh along with David Squires.

There’s been no shortage of upsets already in the UAE. Arnold will be keen to avoid another banana skin tonight.

Here’s a bit more on Tom Rogic’s diagnosis, a rare skerrick of good news in amongst Australia’s injury crisis.

There’s plenty going on around the UAE at the moment with a few big names fighting to restore their reputations.

Scott McIntyre broke down Australia’s opening defeat and set the scene for a testing second encounter.

A Palestinian side with plenty to play for and comprised of players from a diaspora that stretches from Argentina and Chile, to Slovenia and North Carolina are sure to provide just as stern a test as Jordan did.

Arnold hasn’t completely torn up Plan A - and nor should he have after overseeing such an encouraging run of performances pre-tournament.

The dropping of Kruse comes as little surprise following a tough run for the national side and the in-form Ikonomidis’ promising burst off the bench against Jordan. It is perhaps a surprise Jamie Maclaren gets another start in the No 9 jersey after failing to impress so far at the highest level.

Further back Irvine is rewarded for his energetic cameo in the opening game, but Luongo can count himself unfortunate to miss out. The QPR man didn’t have his finest night against Jordan but appears an easier player to drop than others. An option at Arnold’s disposal that could also have been taken, for example, would have been to return Mark Milligan to centre-back and bench Trent Sainsbury who has underwhelmed for an extended period in gold.

Chris Ikonomidis goes from impact substitute to starting forward for Australia against Palestine.
Chris Ikonomidis goes from impact substitute to starting forward for Australia against Palestine. Photograph: François Nel/Getty Images


Australia XI

Three changes for Australia with Robbie Kruse and Massimo Luongo making way for Chris Ikonomidis and Jackson Irvine in tactical switches while Rhyan Grant deputises for the injured Josh Risdon.

It’s a mixed bag injury-wise for Graham Arnold. Tom Rogic has been passed fit despite breaking his hand against Jordan while Andrew Nabbout is now fit enough to make the bench. Risdon has been ruled out though after leaving the opening match at half-time.

“I’m expecting a great reaction from the players and the boys,” Arnold said. “We go into this game with a lot of confidence and a lot of belief and expectation to win.”

Palestine XI


Hello and welcome to matchday seven of Asian Cup 2019, and it’s a vital one for Australia as they take on Palestine in Dubai. Kick-off at the Rashid Stadium is 10pm AEDT (3pm local time).

After losing their opening match to Jordan, and performing poorly in the process, the pressure is on Graham Arnold and his Socceroos. Allowances can be made for a host of injuries but there are question marks over selection, individual form and collective strategy that need to be answered tonight.

“Straight away the focus has turned to how we’re going to right those wrongs and rectify where we went wrong and improve the areas we could have done better,” Mat Ryan said during the week. “I have no doubt we are going to come back in this next game and make the country proud again with our performance and the result.”

Jordan’s victory over Syria means top spot in Group B is all but assured. Tonight’s match is therefore pivotal for Australia to remain in control of the second automatic qualification spot into the knockout phase.

Unlike Australia’s opening match, tonight’s contest is an 18,000 sell out. Plenty of those tickets have gone to Palestine supporters buoyed by their team’s opening round draw with Syria and sensing an upset after Jordan provided a template for how to neutralise and then punish the defending champions.

Graham Arnold is expecting an improved performance from Australia in tonight’s clash with Palestine.
Graham Arnold is expecting an improved performance from Australia in tonight’s clash with Palestine. Photograph: Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images