Brad Maloney delighted with Joeys win but admits room for improvement

Australia U-17 head coach Brad Maloney was delighted after his side secured a crucial three points over China at the AFC U17 Asian Cup Thailand 2023™.

The Subway Joeys claimed a dramatic 5-3 victory in their second match of Group C in hot and humid conditions in Chonburi.

READ MORE: Joeys prevail over China in AFC U17 Asian Cup epic

It was one of the most chaotic and entertaining games of football in recent memory with six goals and two missed penalties in the first half.

Nestory Irankunda scored a brace while goals from Giovanni De Abreu, Mitchell Glasson and Nathan Amanatidis' stoppage time finish sealed the vital win.

Maloney was proud of the team's performance after losing the opening match to Saudi Arabia, but conceded they should have put the game to bed earlier.

"Of course it was excellent and very promising for us to get the three points," Maloney told reporters in the post-match press conference.

"There's obviously a few areas that we could probably tidy up on.

"Let's be honest, in the first half, we had numerous chances that we perhaps could have done better with but it's great to see that we did get on the scoresheet and credit to China.

"They never gave up, they made the game hard for us. So it was a challenging match, but we look forward to the next game."

Those squandered penalties invited China back into the contest and Maloney admitted they must improve defensively if they are to go far into the competition.

"That's something that we'll have to address, we don't want to leak goals, of course like that," he acknowledged.

"To go deep into this tournament, that's something perhaps we'll have to address and tidy up a little bit, but on the promising side, we have a lot of positives going forward."

The 51-year-old said the messaging to his players going into the match did not change after the first loss, with maintaining the belief amongst the group salient. 

"We knew that we had a lot of positive moments in the first match, particularly in the first half," he explained.

"So it was just reinforcing that to the players and reinforcing belief in themselves that we can achieve the result tonight.

"I think in the first match (against Saudi Arabia), we dominated in most areas and most stats, except for the scoreboard. So it's just, as I say, reinforcing that belief in the group."

It certainly worked as Australia was its free-scoring best and creating an abundance of chances with their incisive attacking moves.

Maloney lauded the front three of Nestory Irankunda, Mitchell Glasson and Daniel Bennie. 

"They caused the opposition, a lot of problems particularly in the first half, never stopped running," he continued.

"(Daniel) Bennie was tireless up front, Mitch Glasson the same, and of course, Nestory had his big contribution like that we know that he can."

When asked a follow-up question on Irankunda's outing, Maloney praised his quality after netting a double which included an absolute screamer from distance.

"We know he's a special talent," he said.

"It was great to see him back to himself tonight.

"I thought he probably wasn't at his best it's fair to say in the opening match, so it's great to see him performing that way this evening and really having a big contribution to the team and to the final result."

The Subway Joeys are back in action on Thursday night against Tajikistan needing just a point to advance to the Quarter Finals.

Match Details

Tajikistan v Australia
Date: Thursday, 22 June 2023
Venue: Rajamangala National Stadium, Bangkok
Kick-off: 5:00pm local, 8:00pm (AEST)

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