The defending champions were tamed in their first group stage game in the AFC Asian Cup 2019.
Defending champions Australia took on Jordan in the opening Group B clash of the AFC Asian Cup at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium on Sunday. Jordan managed to pull off an upset in their opening game by beating the Socceroos 1-0. Anas Bani Yaseen jumped high to head home, beating Matt Ryan and a lackadaisical Australian defence. Jordan held on to the solitary-goa leadl for the rest of the game and the result now leaves the Aussies languishing at the bottom of Group B and with a uphill battle on their hands.
Watch: Australia 0-1 Jordan highlights
For the opening encounter, Graham Arnold decided to start with Jamie Maclaren as the primary striker. Awer Mabil and Robbie Kruse were to support him through the wings and Tom Rogic was the primary creator of the team in advanced midfield. The Australians started off on a positive note and looked pretty composed in the opening exchanges. Mabil threatened an opening goal with a shot in the 13th minute, that went just wide of the far post after a smart run down the wing.
Jordan got their goal in the 26th minute thanks to a lackadaisical Australian defence that seemed to have been caught off-guard. Beyond this point, Australia failed to create meaningful chances. The likes of Rogic and Kruse were unable to penetrate into dangerous positions or utilize the channels on either side of the pitch.
Jordan were smart to block off the passing lanes of Mar Milligan and Massimo Luongo and thwarted their offensive advances. In response, Australia had to shift to the wings for the bulk of their attempts in seeking an equaliser, as the Jordanians had created an overloaded in the central areas of the pitch. 23-year-old Mabil often made smart runs that stretched the Jordanian defence and engaged their full-backs, but there was nobody to capitalize on the spaces and holes that opened up.
Tim Cahill’s retirement seemed a point of concern that needs to be addressed by Arnold as they lacked a strong, commanding figure to dictate their attack. The Australian side were often wary of quick transitions from defence to midfield, as Jordan attempted to catch them out with pace and quick counter-attacks.
In the second half, Arnold brought on Rhyan Grant and Chris Ikonomidis to replace Risdon and Kruse and Australia started imposing themselves on the game. Jordan continued to ask questions, however, but these were few and far between. In the entire match, Australia took 19 shots on goal. Of these only six were on target, the same as Jordan’s who took 10 shots on goal and were far more efficient.
Despite dominating the bulk of the possession at 78%, Arnold chose counter-attacks as the best way to get that elusive equaliser. Ikonomidis managed to impress after coming on, but the fact that Australia lacked a reliable goalscorer was as clear as daylight. The absence of Andrew Nabbout who had sustained an injury just the day before was also another factor that worked against the men from Down Under.
In the dying minutes, as Australia became more desperate in search of a goal they managed to create opportunities, but were particularly wasteful with the chances. Rogic failed to hit the target after Behich created a glorious opportunity for him. Maclaren finally managed to put the ball into the net, but the goal was ruled out for offside, as Maclaren marginally strayed ahead of the last man and in the very last move of the game ,his strike from close range was thwarted by Jordanian goalkeeper Amer Shafi.
Arnold pointed out that he was content with his side creating chances and said that on any other day they could have scored a few. He now has a tough job on his hands, as Australia take on Palestine on 11 January in Dubai.