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'Better and better'

Free-scoring Australia fire Asian Cup warning

Saturday, January 12, 2019

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AFP) — Coach Graham Arnold warned Australia would get “better and better” as the defending champions swamped Palestine 3-0 to move within sight of the Asian Cup last 16 yesterday.

Goals from Hibernian striker Jamie Maclaren, Awer Mabil and substitute Apostolos Giannou banished memories of the shock opening defeat to Jordan as Australia moved second in Group B.

The Aussies will now go into next Tuesday's final group game against Syria with their confidence restored, and Arnold said he was only expecting improvement from his team.

“Now it's all about the Syria game,” said Arnold.

“We'll go back to the training field, we'll recover well, and we'll go out for the Syria game with all guns blazing, expecting to win.

“I expect we will get better and better as we go.”

Arnold dropped the underperforming Massimo Luongo and Robbie Kruse in favour of Jackson Irvine and Chris Ikonomidis, who impressed as substitutes against Jordan.

And it was a far more dynamic team that opened their account on 18 minutes, when Celtic's Tom Rogic picked out Maclaren who scored his first international goal with a glancing header.

Two minutes later and gold-clad Australia were 2-0 up, as Ikonomidis lofted a ball to the far post where Mabil sneaked in unmarked for a first-time finish.

Mabil could have doubled his tally before half-time but he skied his shot after a neat move through the middle involving captain Mark Milligan and Maclaren.

But Australia kept up their assault after the break as Palestinian defender Abdallah Jaber knocked an attempted clearance onto his own crossbar and Irvine headed just over.

The attacks kept coming and substitute striker Giannou, a late call-up after Scottish-born Martin Boyle was injured, nodded a deserving third for Australia in the final minute.

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