Harry Souttar marked his international debut with a brace and Jamie Maclaren notched a hat-trick as Australia settled for a 5-0 win over minnows Nepal in World Cup qualifying.
Born in Aberdeen, defender Souttar changed his allegiance to his mother’s homeland earlier this year and enjoyed a first appearance to savour at GIO Stadium in Canberra.
The Fleetwood Town centre-back repaid Graham Arnold’s faith with a headed double after a pair of early finishes from Maclaren, who completed the scoring and his treble in the closing moments.
Australia’s apparent reluctance to overexert themselves meant the expected avalanche of goals never truly arrived, though the Socceroos did move top of Group B, at least until Kuwait meet Jordan later on Thursday.
Kiran Chemjong’s failure to grasp a Craig Goodwin shot gifted Maclaren the sixth-minute opener and the striker quickly doubled his tally, heading home after Rhyan Grant nodded Aziz Behich’s cross back into the danger zone.
Our first goal on home soil on the Road to the @FIFAWorldCup Qatar 2022!
— Caltex Socceroos (@Socceroos) October 10, 2019
The towering Souttar was proving a nuisance at set-pieces and managed to stoop to meet Goodwin’s corner for Australia’s third in the 23rd minute.
A fourth would have followed on the stroke of half-time if not for the match officials, who disallowed a deflected Mathew Leckie effort for offside despite Ananta Tamang being responsible for the touch that deceived goalkeeper Chemjong.
There was no denying Souttar a double, though, as his 59th-minute header from Aaron Mooy’s cross dribbled in off Dinesh Rajbanshi.
Arnold turned to his bench after the hour but no other Australian was able to add their name to the scoresheet against the world’s 161st-ranked nation, leaving Maclaren to claim the matchball as he fired home in the 90th minute following Jackson Irvine’s cushioned control.
What does it mean? Socceroos miss chance to further bolster goal difference
Kuwait, the team Australia brushed aside 3-0 last month, began the road to Qatar by putting seven past Nepal, so there were expectations for the Socceroos to fill their boots in the nation’s capital.
The long distances many of Arnold’s players covered en route to Australia can be considered a mitigating factor but the former Sydney FC boss will expect a greater degree of ruthlessness against Chinese Taipei next week, particularly as his team have gone goalless in four of eight games in 2019.
Maclaren makes case for more minutes
One man who did his job in attack was Melbourne City forward Maclaren.
Prolific at A-League level, he has found goals harder to come by in the international arena but can be pleased to have added three more to the one he notched at the Asian Cup in January.
Goals elude Goodwin
Unlike Maclaren, Saudi Arabia-based Goodwin let opportunities go begging too frequently.
The 27-year-old attempted five shots without scoring, a return that needs to improve if he is to be in contention for a starting berth on a more regular basis.
Australia travel to Kaohsiung to meet bottom-placed Chinese Taipei on Tuesday, the same day as Nepal’s difficult date with Jordan in Amman.
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