Jackson Irvine, Awer Mabil and Garang Kuol fired Australia to a 3-1 victory against Ecuador at the CommBank Stadium on Friday.
In their first game since the World Cup in Qatar, Australia’s preparations for the Asian Cup got off to an ideal start.
First-half goals from Jackson and Mabil came either side of Felix Torres’ equaliser in an action-packed opening period.
A much quieter second half saw few opportunities before 18-year-old Kuol scored his first senior international goal, ensuring there would be no late fightback from the South American side.
….you know the rest #AUSvECU #Socceroos pic.twitter.com/Ze7QiaqXJL
— Subway Socceroos (@Socceroos) March 24, 2023
The hosts took the lead after 13 minutes, Mitchell Duke brilliantly volleying Craig Goodwin’s free-kick back across the face of goal to Irvine, who converted into the empty net – though replays showed Duke should have been flagged for offside.
Ecuador responded quickly to the setback and, having seen Michael Estrada drag a glorious chance wide of the mark, levelled when Torres met Jeremy Sarmiento’s cross and guided a header past Mathew Ryan.
Australia regained the lead in the 32nd minute, with Irvine dispossessing Piero Hincapie on the edge of the area and seeing the ball fall kindly for Mabil, who smashed a fierce strike into the top-right corner.
Manchester City’s Alex Robertson made his debut in the second half, despite having yet to make a senior appearance for the Premier League side, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather in featuring for the Socceroos.
There were few opportunities in the second half, but Moises Ramirez clawed an effort from Kye Rowles off the line, with Goodwin’s set-piece delivery again causing problems for the visitors.
Though Ecuador dominated possession for much of the latter exchanges, the South Americans were unable to create opportunities to test Ryan and the hosts held on to secure victory.
The win was secured in the 84th minute, with teenage substitute Kuol on hand to poke in Aziz Behich’s driven cross.
What does it mean? Aussies keep rolling
Feel-good factor for Australia was high following the World Cup in Qatar, securing their first win in the competition since 2010 and sealing a spot in the last-16 before elimination came at the hands of eventual winners Argentina.
That has raised expectation for the nation ahead of the Asian Cup, which will begin in Qatar in January 2024, and a tough challenge against Ecuador was dealt with.
The South American side also impressed at times in the World Cup last year, but Australia always seemed to have this clash under control.
The Newcastle United forward did not see much of the ball following his introduction in the second half, but that did not matter much as he fired home the third goal to seal victory.
Kuol had just two touches after coming on in the 78th minute, one of which was an accurate pass and the other was to round off Australia’s win.
Torres’ bright spark
Scoring Ecuador’s equaliser was undoubtably the highlight for Torres, but his commanding display in defence was highlighted by the fact he won seven of eight aerial duels during the encounter.
No player had more for either side, with Torres’ display limiting the impact of striker Duke – who won just one of his six aerial duels.
The two sides meet again on Tuesday in another international friendly, where Ecuador will seek revenge.
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