The Socceroos have sent Tim Cahill off in style, defeating Lebanon 3-0 in an international friendly at ANZ Stadium on Tuesday night thanks to a Martin Boyle brace and Mathew Leckie strike.
In a comfortable win, Boyle struck twice before half time while Leckie put icing on the cake after the interval, ensuring Cahill’s final game – which heralded some 13 minutes – was one to enjoy.
The Socceroos’ early dominance told in the 19th minute when Boyle found himself driving at the Lebanese defence. The Hibernian man took a defender out of the play to create space and let fly, with his effort finding its way in off Joan Oumari.
The Australia dominance continued for the remainder of the opening 45 and it was Boyle who bobbed up in the right place and the right time again. Milos Degenek rattled the bar with a header and Boyle was on hand to tap home.
Leckie had scarcely been on the field five minutes after before he was able to turn in Aaron Mooy’s cross halfway through the second half. Replacing Awer Mabil, Leckie’s effort was too good for Mehdi Khalil.
As the second half ran its course, Arnold turned to the bench, introducing Danny Vukovic, Andrew Nabbout, Jimmy Jeggo, Leckie and ultimately outgoing hero Tim Cahill with 10 minutes remaining.
Jeggo’s debut was the second of the night, joining Rhyan Grant, as Australia welcomed in part of the new breed and said goodbye to the focal point of the golden generation and its greatest ever.
— Daily Football Show (@DFS_AUS) November 20, 2018
Before Boyle was linked with Socceroos selection, most Australian football fans – except for the select few to follow Hibs – fed on mere morsels to unearth information on the winger. From that point in, eyes were on him.
What was clear through some very basic research was that Boyle had pace, and lots of it. And so it has proven since he was cast into the public eye in Australia, using that for club and now adopted country.
Boyle’s second goal was a case of being on the spot when it mattered to turn home Degenek’s thundering header, but his first was a case of being himself and utilising his assets in a dynamic front four of himself, Mabil, Tomi Juric and Aaron Mooy at No.10.
Boyle drove inside from the left and towards goal, committing a defender before letting fly. His effort was helped in by a touch, but the directness of Boyle’s play will be what impresses Graham Arnold and Socceroos fans the most.
In his two Australia caps, against South Korea and now Lebanon, Boyle has been lively and has offered plenty of attacking impetus. Particularly in wounded Daniel Arzani’s absence, his skill-set is even more valuable.
Boyle’s case is building quickly for a spot on the plane to the Asian Cup in January. Based on what we’ve seen so far, we can only thank father Graham, who was born in Sydney all those years ago.
We’ll see more of the same danger
The Socceroos were dominant against the Cedars, who have also qualified for the Asian Cup, and aside from a few brief spells, the match was played almost entirely in Lebanon’s half.
The 82-ranked nation is a far cry from the likes of World Cup opponents Peru, Denmark and most certainly France, but the challenge they posed is one that will be a constant for Australia in the UAE in just under two months’ time.
At least in the group stage, against Syria, Jordan and Palestine, those nations will sit back and look to strike on the counter-attack as Lebanon did, going with a back three out at Homebush.
Though two goals were found, it promises to be more of the same against compact, deep-lying defences in the heat of the Emirates. Crispness on the ball as well as movement on and off it will be critical.
That danger, although of a higher quality to Lebanon, was seen against the disciplined but not full-strength South Korea team, who struck on the counter after absorbing plenty of pressure.
Overall, with Mile Jedinak and now Cahill gone, Arnold will at least be pleased to have found goals through Boyle and Leckie from open play, a problem that has gone unsolved for some time.
Timmy time comes to a close
It is almost hard to believe that 108 games and 50 goals later, the curtain has fallen on the greatest ever Socceroo’s time on the international stage. It has been 14 memorable years of the golden forehead.
Whether it was goal one or two in Kaiserslautern way back in 2006 or his screamer against the Netherlands in Porto Alegre, every Australian football fan – indeed, sports fan – can be thankful for his contribution to the game.
As promised, Cahill was given time off the bench, and more of it than first planned. The dream goal No.51 was not forthcoming, but the 38-year-old was treated to a fitting farewell in a dominant win in his home city.