Socceroos thrill in Kuwait thrashing
Socceroos captain Mathew Leckie has bagged a brace and Aaron Mooy scored a bolt from outside the box to beat frantic but disjointed Kuwait 3-0 in their opening World Cup qualifier.
In front of a hostile away crowd, Australia showed no signs of rust despite only playing one game since January as they surged at the hosts' backline at the Al Kuwait Sports Club Stadium on Tuesday night (Wednesday AEST).
It was billed as stern test of a young prototype Socceroos side that included 12 players who had 10 caps or less, but Leckie's and Mooy's first half goals gave Australia the perfect start in its push to the 2022 World Cup.
The hosts frantically tried to force themselves back into the game after the break, but captain Hussain Al-Musawi and Yousef Nasser couldn't find the net and Australia took control as the clock ticked down.
"It was a fantastic win, you know a very positive start to the campaign and a lot of younger fresh faces that we've brought in over the last six months really stood up tonight," Socceroos coach Graham Arnold said.
"We're very proud of them."
Leckie, who wore the captain's armband after Mark Milligan was injured earlier in the week, thought it was always going to be tough with the temperature 36C, but he knew the Socceroos could get the result they wanted if they stayed vigilant.
"As I said to the boys before the game, concentration and clarity is going to be the biggest thing and we did it really well tonight, I think we were really composed, scored the goals we needed to and saw the game out," he said.
"Big one for me also to represent that country with Milligan out, but the most important was the win and we did it."
It took just seven minutes for the Socceroos to break the deadlock when playmaker Jackson Irvine's low drive from just inside the box bounced through a sea of legs, including Adam Taggart's, to Leckie who poked across Kuwait goalkeeper Sulaiman Abdulghafoor into the bottom right corner.
Australia doubled their lead in the 30th minute when the Hull City midfielder rose to nod Mooy's corner over the defence to his waiting skipper Leckie, who stabbed into the bottom right corner.
Kuwait worked hard to allow their opponents no ball time, but the deft passes and surging runs of Irvine, Mooy, Leckie, Brandon Borrello and Aziz Behich couldn't be contained.
Irvine helped Australia put the result beyond doubt in the 38th minute by teeing up Mooy for a cracking bolt from outside the box.
Rhyan Grant's searching cross was parried by Abdulghafoor into the path of Irvine, who nudged the ball left for the on rushing Mooy to strike it sweetly into the top right corner.
Australia sat back in the second half, content to hit the hosts on the counter-attack, with Kuwait still desperately searching for a way in.
Al-Musawi had two chances in 53rd and 59th minute, but only the later shot required the outstretched Mathew Ryan to tip it over the crossbar. Yousef Nasser also had an opportunity after Trent Sainsbury's awkward clearance but Ryan parried his resulting shot past the front post.
Right on fulltime Awer Mabil found himself one-on-one with the Kuwait keeper, but the stumbling Abdulghafoor got a hand to the winger's lob. The win moves Australia into equal first in qualifying Group B with Kuwait, with their next match at home against Nepal on October 10.