Australia saw off Lebanon 3-0 in Sydney as their record goalscorer and outfield appearance maker Tim Cahill made his farewell appearance.
Cahill was introduced as a second-half substitute to a rapturous ovation, by which point Martin Boyle had staked his claim to be an important part of the Socceroos’ future with a first-half brace.
The 38-year-old’s pre-planned cameo for the final 10 minutes brought up the 108th cap of an international career that yielded a superb return of 50 goals.
Although he is unlikely to ever make up such ground, Scottish-born Boyle now has two from two following his debut against South Korea last time out and added an assist when Mathew Leckie completed the scoring.
— ANZ Stadium (@ANZStadium) November 20, 2018
The Hibernian winger was responsible for most of Australia’s best moments early on and almost squeezed a fourth-minute volley past Lebanon goalkeeper Mehdi Khalil at his near post.
The visitors were hindered by Omar Bugiel pulling up with a hamstring injury and, in the 19th minute, Boyle cut inside and lashed home via a deflection off Nour Mansour.
Given their inferiority in open play, Lebanon could ill afford giving Milos Degenek ample room to power Aaron Mooy’s 41st-minute corner against the bar. Boyle was on hand to convert the rebound.
Tomi Juric allowed a handful of openings to pass him by during the first half and the Luzern striker scuffed his shot too close to Khalil in the 53rd minute after being picked out by Mooy.
Australia left-back Aziz Behich roved forward to clatter into the side-netting and, although Lebanon showed increasing poise on the counter-attack, victory was secured in the 68th minute.
Boyle picked out Leckie precisely and the substitute pivoted to whip a half volley into the net.
Andrew Nabbout spurned a glorious chance for number four and hit the post after Australia’s number four, the substitute everyone came to see, took his curtain call.
What does it mean? Australia prepared for life after Cahill
From crucial World Cup qualifying goals to Asian Cup glory and that stunner against the Netherlands, few of the Australia players on the field will experience the hard-earned highs enjoyed by Cahill, who richly deserved his hero’s reception. The 38-year-old veteran is the last of a golden generation to leave the stage, but Mooy, Boyle and Mustafa Amini were among those to suggest the Socceroos’ future is one to embrace – albeit against limited opposition.
— Caltex Socceroos (@Socceroos) November 20, 2018
Boyle grabs his chance
Born in Aberdeen and with a professional CV comprised of spells with Montrose, Dundee and Hibernian, it is safe to say Boyle probably never expected to be the toast of Australia on a showpiece sporting occasion in Sydney. He took his chance with aplomb, proving a menace to the Lebanese defence throughout. Two goals and an assist underlined how badly they struggled to contain his threat.
Juric fires untimely blank
Centre-forward already looks a problem position for Arnold and a lack of goals up front will come into sharp focus in the post-Cahill era. Juric’s untidy showing – snatching at chances as his first touch betrayed him – was ill-timed and he will hope it is lost amid a wave of celebration and nostalgia.
Australia begin their Asian Cup campaign against Jordan in January, with 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar up first for Lebanon.
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