Aussies Abroad Wrap: Taggart celebrates Socceroos selection with clinical headed finish
The weekend of football just gone saw a last audition for many of our new and returning Socceroos, who will be fighting for eleven starting positions for June's upcoming internationals
Adam Taggart capped off a deserved Socceroos selection, continuing his rich vein of of goal-scoring form for Cerezo Osaka as they cruised to victory in the J-League.
Meanwhile Degenek returned to action in the MLS, with the defender having an immediate impact within Columbus' backline, helping revive their campaign with a famous victory.
Asia & The Middle-East
An Adam Taggart opener speared club side Cerezo Osaka to a third straight victory in the J-League, comfortably dispatching Shonan Bellmare 2-0 away from home. The Australian had been in fine form coming into the weekend, with a derby goal combined with a stirring performance mid-week, culminating in a deserved selection for the Socceroo's two upcoming matches in June.
With Cerezo fighting for a continental position, the centre forward stood up early for his team, launching himself toward a floated cross within the 18-yard box, showing immaculate technique to head the ball to the far corner while at speed, down past the outstretched hand of the goalkeeper. Holding out a determined Shonan outfit for the majority of the clash, it was a injury time settler from Kato Mutsuki that put the result beyond doubt.
In the J2 League, Mitch Duke's Fagiano Okayma remain in touch of the league's two automatic promotion positions, after a 0-0 stalemate away at V-Varen Nagasaki. The Socceroos forward was not able to continue his goalscoring run in the league despite continuously troubling the hosts across a full 90 minutes.
Duke will now jet across the continent with compatriot Taggart, with national team coach left Graham Arnold left with a difficult decision, on how to play his two in-form Japanese-based centre forwards.
Martin Boyle and his side Al-Faisaly have picked up their most important point of the Saudi Pro League season, with a 1-1 draw at home to Al-Ittifaq, helping lift the Socceroo and his team out of the top three and into potential safety.
The forward was involved for the full 90 minutes plus two minutes of added time before being substituted, as Al-Faisaly fought to hold their slender advantage, with their opponents just as desperate to avoid a season in the nation's second division. Despite a 93rd minute equaliser, the hosts held on, with both sides' fate resting on the two matches remaining.
The United States
Columbus Crew have returned from one of the toughest away trips in Major League Soccer, Atlanta United, with all three points in a 2-1 victory, sparking their season back into life, thanks in no small part to the performance of Socceroo defender Milos Degenek. A boisterous crowd packed the Mercedes-Benz Arena, with the hosts Atlanta and Ohio outfit Columbus knowing that more dropped points would see them both drift away from a potential play-off.
Starting the clash in the backline, Degenek and his team started fast, opening the scoring less than 60 seconds into the match. Many say it is a curse to take the lead that early, yet the Crew defended doggedly, holding out a constant wave of red and black attacks. A second for Columbus just before half-time late was eventually levelled by an injury-time consolation for the home side, denying the Socceroo an impressive clean sheet effort.
The Norwegian Eliteserien remains one of the last of the European leagues to still be in action, with Socceroo Gianni Stensness gaining crucial match fitness before heading to the middle-east to represent the green and gold. The defender was in action for Viking Fotballklubb as they fell to title rivals Strømsgodset 3-2 away from home, despite Stensness' team managing to peg their opposition back to within one goal on multiple occasions.