Leckie brace, Mooy stunner launch perfect start on road to Qatar
The Caltex Socceroos have made the perfect start on the road to Qatar with a 3-0 win over Kuwait in Australia’s first FIFA World Cup 2022™ qualifier.
A brace from Mat Leckie, who was captain in the absence of injured skipper Mark Milligan, and a stunning strike from Aaron Mooy secured a dominant win and Australia's first three points in Group B during the second phase of AFC qualifying.
It took less than seven minutes for Australia to take the lead over Kuwait after Leckie turned in Jackson Irvine’s first-time volley, which fell to the midfielder after Mooy's corner was headed away.
Then, on the half hour mark, Leckie and Irvine combined to double the Caltex Socceroos’ lead when the Hull City midfielder rose near the edge of the box and powerfully headed a Mooy corner towards goal.
Leckie was alert to swivel and turn the ball into the goal from point-blank range to score his first brace for Australia since June 2018.
Less than 10 minutes later, a superb strike from Mooy ensured that the Caltex Socceroos went into the break with a three-goal buffer with the Brighton midfielder burying his first international goal in three-and-a-half years.
The 28-year-old curled a first-time shot into the top corner of the goal after Adam Taggart brought down a punched clearance from Kuwait’s goalkeeper and laid the ball off for Mooy to launch his attempt from the edge of the box.
Australia’s defence and goalkeeper Mat Ryan were largely untroubled throughout the match until the shot-stopper was called into action twice in quick succession near the hour mark.
First, the Brighton gloveman was forced to dive to his left and palm away a first-time Yousef Naser shot that was headed for the top corner.
Then, minutes later, Naser tested Ryan for a second time when the 27-year-old launched himself to his left to make a low save from the Kuwait attacker’s first-time attempt.
Three early goals saw Australia assert their control over the match, but they could have lead by even more at half-time.
In the 16th minute, Taggart came close to doubling the Caltex Socceroos lead when the striker was played into Kuwait’s box and was afforded space to move towards goal and shoot. However, his left-footed shot was along the ground and didn’t trouble the goalkeeper.
Taggart had another opportunity on the 25-minute mark when when he rose to bring down Mooy’s cross in the box before reacting to a ricochet. However, his attempt was straight at the goalkeeper.
Irvine also had early opportunities to get on the scoresheet. A neat passing play in the 19th minute saw Brandon Borrello set him up in the box, but he scooped the ball over the bar after his spin and shot.
Irvine very nearly scored Australia’s third goal in the 35th minute, but he was unable to direct his first-time left-footed shot on target following a smart cut-back from Aziz Behich.
Mooy - who created the most chances of any player on the field (four) - came close to burying his second goal of the game in the 53rd minute, but his second-half free kick from outside the box went too far to the left of the post.
Awer Mabil almost made an immediate impact after entering the game just before the 70th minute. However, his attempt hit the side-netting after he was played into the box by Mooy.
In the last minute, Mabil very nearly made it four goals for the Caltex Socceroos when a pinpoint ball from Mooy put the winger in on goal, but he was unable to lift the ball over the Kuwait goalkeeper and the game ended 3-0.
Australia's next match is against Nepal in Canberra at GIO Stadium on Thursday, October 10. To purchase tickets CLICK HERE.
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