Perth boy Trent Sainsbury says playing in front of friends and family proved one of the more nerve-wracking nights of his career, but the 2-0 win over Iraq he says was fully deserved.
On Thursday night at Perth's Rectangular Stadium in Australia's opening group game of the final phase of World Cup qualification, Sainsbury lined up in central defence alongside Mark Milligan with Milos Degenek at right back and Brad Smith on the left to face Iraq.
It was a new-look defensive unit and true to coach Ange Postecoglou’s mantra about having depth and options for his starting XI.
Sainsbury said he was more nervous before the game about relatives watching on than having a new backline.
"I've never been so nervous before a game, more nervous than even that Asian Cup final. Playing in front of my friends and family is the first time I've done it so I was very nervous," Sainsbury told reporters after the game.
He added Iraq showed plenty of determination but the quality of Australia was always going to win through.
“You can see patches where they were frustrating us and we were trying to force a few things, myself in particular, and it was just about getting to know each other in that backline.
“But in the second half they couldn’t stick with us for the 90 minutes and it showed with our passing game and intensity to close them down once they made a mistake.
The squad arrived back in Australia at different times making it difficult for the team to spend much time on systems.
But the players know understand clearly the expectations and game plan, added Sainsbury.
“We only had the one real session with the team together and that first 30 minutes was good for us.
“They couldn’t stay with us for the 90 minutes – we knew that. Ultimately if we stuck to our game plan we’d get the result we wanted.”
Australia now head to the UAE who had a shock 2-1 against Japan in Saitama on Thursday.