Awer Mabil got on the scoresheet in the rout of Oman.
Awer Mabil got on the scoresheet in the rout of Oman.

Goals galore as Socceroos impress in warm-up

The Socceroos will kick off their Asian Cup defence full of confidence after disposing with Pim Verbeek's Oman 5-0 in their final warm-up hit-out in Dubai.

A-League bolter Chris Ikonomidis did his starting chances no harm with a maiden international goal, while defender Milos Degenek also opened his account for Australia and Awer Mabil, Andrew Nabbout and Jackson Irvine added their names to the scoresheet in Sunday's behind-closed-doors friendly.

The breadth of scorers will encourage coach Graham Arnold, Verbeek's ex-assistant, whose emphasis on a mobile front third is bearing fruit a week before their opening game against Jordan.

But the Socceroos can expect far more fight in the tournament than that offered by a nervous Oman who, managed by the former Australia coach, gave their opponents the easiest of strolls at Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium and coughed up three goals in 14 minutes.

Mat Ryan, at 26 became the youngest Socceroo to reach 50 caps, made only a single save.

"We didn't lose one game in 2018, so that was quite a disappointment that we started at 3-0," Verbeek said.

"The first goal was of course very unlucky, the blooper, it was too easy. I knew it would be a tough game but in the first half we were completely outplayed."

This was a match designed to get minutes in legs, but it also doubled as an audition for the less-established Ikonomidis, Mabil, Mustafa Amini and Rhyan Grant, but there were also hints of the spine of a team that could be deployed against Jordan, with Mat Ryan, Trent Sainsbury, Aziz Behich and Robbie Kruse all starting.

"It was good to have that hit-out to give all those players minutes," Arnold said.


Chris Ikonomidis and Andrew Nabbout both got on the scoresheet.
Chris Ikonomidis and Andrew Nabbout both got on the scoresheet.

"A lot of them, their competitions finished a while ago, so they were lacking in minutes.

"It was a good performance but there's so much more to give. You can see they're taking the information in, the players, the way we expect to play. And you can see the danger we can create. The consistency will come."

Intriguingly, Arnold started captain Mark Milligan deep in midfield, allowing the in-form Degenek 90 minutes next to Sainsbury in central defence.

Despite his 33 years, Milligan's passing range was valuable while he regularly dropped into defence.

Much to the outrage of Celtic fans, Tom Rogic was not even on the bench after a club-versus-country tug of war over whether he should have been allowed to stay in Scotland and play in the weekend's Old Firm derby.

However, it's understood Rogic's problematic knee flared up on the flight into camp and Arnold could not risk further inflaming it so close to the tournament.

Australia were up and running after 10 minutes when Nabbout buried a sitter, gifted to the Urawa Red Diamonds man after Saad Suhail chested a Sainsbury pass straight to him inside the area.

Four minutes later Perth Glory star Ikonomidis doubled the advantage with a first-time finish in the bottom corner, taking cool advantage of nice build-up play from Amini and Mabil.

Massimo Luongo tries to stamp his authority on the game.
Massimo Luongo tries to stamp his authority on the game.

The latter soon made it 3-0, tapping in an assist from Aziz Behich.

The free-scoring first 45 minutes was the first time the Socceroos have bagged three first-half goals since beating Jordan 5-1 in a March 2016 World Cup qualifier.

It continued after the break via an unexpectedly lovely finish from Degenek, who flicked Ikonomidis' corner in at the far post for a rare goal.

"Obviously it was a fair bit of luck," the defender admitted.

"I meant to flick it on obviously to the back post and was hoping that someone would be there to head it in, but I just saw it land in the net. I don't normally score goals so I was quite happy.

"Last time we played against Lebanon, I hit the bar and Boyley (Martin Boyle) scored - now I've scored so it's quite a nice feeling. It means something very special to me."

Following through on his promise for "wholesale changes", Arnold introduced Jamie Maclaren and Massimo Luongo for Kruse and Amini, and Martin Boyle and Jackson Irvine soon followed them at the expense of Nabbout and Milligan.

With five minutes remaining, Alex Gersbach replaced Mabil just in time to slide the ball to Irvine, who took a touch then buried a delightful volley.

Martin Boyle nips in front of the Omani defence.
Martin Boyle nips in front of the Omani defence.