There was mid-week action for a number of Socceroos across Europe – including a crucial top-of-the-table clash for Trent Sainsbury in Israel.
Sainsbury’s second-placed Maccabi Haifa spurned the chance to go top of the Israeli Premier League as they returned to action for the first time this calendar year.
The defender played the full 90 minutes for his side against league-leaders Maccabi Tel Aviv but was on the wrong side of a 4-3 scoreline at Sammy Ofer Stadium.
Tel Aviv looked set to cruise to victory as Avi Rikan put the yellow-and-blue ahead inside the quarter hour and Eyal Golasa doubled the advantage just minutes into the second half.
However, Haifa drew level twice in the second half as fellow Australian Nikita Rukavytsya and Yanic Wildschut struck a two-minute double salvo on the hour mark.
Tel Aviv again inched ahead soon after as Yonatan Cohen capitalised on the rebound from his initially missed penalty, before Haifa’s hopes were lifted as they levelled for a second time in the 88th minute through substitute Mohammed Awad.
However, Haifa were ultimately brought undone by an injury time winner as Cohen secured his brace for Tel Aviv to forego their 13 match unbeaten run and fall six points off the pace in the title race.
Cup disappointment for Souttar
Harry Souttar’s Fleetwood Town tasted cup defeat for the second time in a week as they were eliminated from the EFL trophy on penalties by Accrington Stanley.
The towering defender played the full match for Fleetwood as the teams cancelled each other out 2-2 in regular time – Stanley’s Ross Sykes forcing extra time with an injury time equaliser for the visitors.
With neither side able to edge ahead in the additional period penalties resulted, with Stanley holding their nerve through all five attempts to capitalise on Paddy Madden’s earlier miss for Fleetwood.
Friendly returns mark end of winter hiatus
Elsewhere, Martin Boyle returned to action for Hibernian as they returned from their winter break with a 2-1 friendly win over Dutch side Willem II in Spain.
Boyle played the second half for Jack Ross’s side as Hibs fielded different elevens in each stanza and and was instrumental in the winning goal, drawing a parried save just seconds before Oli Shaw poached the rebound.
Brandon Borello also shook off the holiday season malaise by lining up for SC Frieburg in one of two friendlies with fellow Bundesliga outfit Borussia Munchengladbach.
Gladbach struck two late goals to win the clash with Borello's side 2-1 after winning the earlier match by the same margin.
And on the home front…
Andrew Redmayne’s Sydney FC extended their lead atop the Hyundai A-League table to 12 points following a 2-1 win over Newcastle Jets on Friday night.
Socceroos and Sky Blues teammate Rhyan Grant sat out the clash at McDonald Jones Stadium with suspension.