The Caltex Socceroos were beaten 2-1 by an impressive Greece with the visitors’ Iaonnis Maniatis smashing an absolute stunner at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night.
After winning the first of the two-match Dodoni Series 1-0 in Sydney, the Australians struggled to back up that eye-catching performance.
A revitalised Greece had strikes to Petros Mantalos and Maniatis to thank for the win while Trent Sainsbury headed home the Socceroos’ reply just on the hour.
Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou used the game to give valuable game time to new faces and rotate his squad.
And with Postecoglou stressing the need to improve over the coming two years, this friendly provided a timely reminder of the challenges ahead against a polished European opponent.
Teenage Alex Gersbach started on the left of defence, Ryan McGowan started on the right in front of Adam Federici in goal.
Mathew Leckie was handed a start alongside central striker Tim Cahill who captained the side in place of Mile Jedinak. Mark Milligan replaced the Crystal Palace skipper in the centre of midfield.
But it was the Greeks who got off to a perfect start.
On seven minutes, Milligan was bustled off the ball near the centre circle, Andreas Samaris stole the ball, burst through, laid off to Mantalos who smashed the ball past Federici.
And it got even better for Ethniki Omada with Maniatis scoring an audacious stunner 13 minutes later.
With Federici well off his line, Maniatis sensed his opportunity from just inside his half to make it 2-0, pinging a perfect drive which beat the retreating Federici and bounced into the empty goal.
And it could’ve got worse for Australia just before half time.
Gersbach was lucky he only saw yellow after a late tackle on goal-scorer Mantalos sent the AEK man sprawling to the deck.
Trent Sainsbury went close early in the second half but Greece went even closer with Roma’s Vassileos Torosidis volleying a rocket against the Aussie post from a corner.
But it was Sainsbury who got the Socceroos back in it just on the hour, nodding home after a scramble in the box from a corner.
2-1 with half an hour to play and both sides rung the changes as Australia played two upfront with Apo Giannou partnering Cahill.
Australia didn’t stop running with Cahill leading from the front but as the game lost some of its shape with numerous substitutions, it wasn’t to be as Michael Skibbe's side registered a morale-boosting win 2-1 in front of 33,622 fans.
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