BRISBANE: Australia’s Jackson Irvine (L) and New Zealand’s Tim Payne vie for the ball during a friendly match at the Suncorp Stadium.—AFP
BRISBANE: Australia’s Jackson Irvine (L) and New Zealand’s Tim Payne vie for the ball during a friendly match at the Suncorp Stadium.—AFP

BRISBANE: A long-range Awer Mabil strike proved the difference as World Cup-bound Australia bid farewell to their fans with an unconvincing 1-0 win over New Zealand in a friendly at Brisbane’s Lang Park on Thursday.

It was Australia’s first match since beating Peru to secure their ticket to Qatar and last at home before heading off for the tournament, where they will face reigning champions France, Tunisia and Denmark in Group ‘D’.

New Zealand, whose own World Cup ambitions were ended in a playoff defeat to Costa Rica in June, frustrated the home side with their aggressive high press and carved out a few chances without reward.

The match was the first leg of a two-game series to celebrate 100 years since Australia played their first international, a 3-1 loss to New Zealand in 1922. The second game will be played in Auckland on Sunday.

Australia will take some concerns to Qatar, after struggling to put away a side ranked well below them.

“I’m far from satisfied with that to be honest,” Australian midfielder Jackson Irvine said. “There’s a lot of things we could have done better. We managed to get a win, but there are a lot of aspects of the game that we can do better. But at the end of the day, a win’s a win and it’s a landmark day for the national team.”

Australia slowly warmed to their task and had a Trent Sainsbury goal disallowed before Mabil broke the deadlock in the 33rd minute with his eighth international goal.

The lively winger received a pass about 30 metres out, cut inside the covering defender and lashed the ball into the bottom corner of the net to the delight of the 25,000 crowd.

Australia’s scoring issues re-emerged in the second half with Riley McGree and Martin Boyle both firing chances over the bar and Mathew Leckie hitting the post when through on goal late on.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2022

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