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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Socceroos beat Lebanon 2-0 as Jordan Bos, Riley McGree injured

It started so well for the Socceroos.

Five minutes into Thursday night’s World Cup qualifier, Keanu Baccus nicked the ball off Lebanon’s Bassel Jradi, surged forward and delivered a cross from the right. It curled in off the post for his first international goal – a happy accident on his old home ground. The former Western Sydney Wanderers midfielder seized his moment, hamming it up in front of the crowd with his hands cupping his ears.

Kye Rowles celebrates his first international goal.

Kye Rowles celebrates his first international goal.Credit: Getty

Happy days. If the Cedars of Lebanon came to Parramatta intent on parking the bus and frustrating the hosts, surely now they had to come forward. All those nagging questions about the Socceroos’ inability to break down a stubborn defence would have to be asked another day.

But really, that’s when the problems began.

Not 10 minutes later, Riley McGree hobbled off with what is feared to be an aggravation of the foot problem which saw him miss two months of football for Middlesbrough earlier this season. And then his replacement, Jordan Bos, jarred his knee in a collision with Lebanon’s right-back Nassar Nassar – so the replacement also had to be replaced. Both were late arrivals in camp from Europe – about 1am on Wednesday night, coach Graham Arnold said – and neither is expected to feature on Tuesday night in Canberra.

By half-time, the early euphoria created by Baccus’ goal was replaced by a growing sense of concern, not only for the physical toll of the night but the football itself, which was frustratingly familiar. Their only other genuine chance came via Kusini Yengi’s hopeful, powerful ping from distance, which was deflected but still easily saved by Lebanese custodian Mostafa Matar.

It was a painful night for Socceroos defender Jordan Bos.

It was a painful night for Socceroos defender Jordan Bos.Credit: Getty

There was also a speculative thump forward from near the halfway line by Harry Souttar, which happened to put Adam Taggart through clear on goal, only he wasn’t able to conjure a shot.

Those moments aside, they struggled to construct much in attack, despite Arnold’s deployment of two strikers, Yengi and Taggart, and complete domination of possession. The change in shape, he said, was in response to a shortage of fit wingers. In any case, it did not solve their ongoing problems in the final third, which go much deeper than positions on a whiteboard, or the disruptions caused by the injuries.

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