Socceroos defeat ten-man Nepal to advance to third round of FIFA World Cup qualifying
The Socceroos sealed a first-place Group B finish and a ticket to the third round of FIFA World Cup 2022™ qualifiers with a 3-0 win over Nepal on Saturday morning (AEST).
Mathew Leckie and Martin Boyle scored on either side of Fran Karacic's maiden international goal, as the Socceroos eased to victory against a Nepal outfit reduced to ten men after Rohit Chand received a red card for fouling Boyle on the cusp of half-time.
The result took Australia out of the reach of Jordan - the second-placed side in Group B - with just one game to play, ensuring Graham Arnold's side progress to the next round of qualification and clinch a spot at the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
Leckie opened the scoring with six minutes on the clock, rising high over Rohit Chand to send his powerful header past Kiran Kumar Limbu in goal for Nepal.
Connor Metcalfe forced the turnover in midfield, getting the ball to the feet of Boyle who in turn fed Aziz Behich down the left flank to provide the assist for Leckie with a pinpoint cross.
Nepal responded well after falling a goal behind so early in the contest, pressing the Socceroos high with energy and commitment to the cause - but just beyond the half-hour mark the chances began to present for the Green and Gold.
Ajdin Hrustic bent a free-kick on target which Kiran Kumar Limbu pushed around the post for a corner, before Leckie found his way in on goal once more by chopping the ball onto his left side, only for a desperate defensive block to deny the Socceroos skipper's shot on target.
Leckie then combined with Karacic down the right flank to provide the assist for the second goal, receiving the ball from the right-back and skipping past Suman Aryal to cut the ball back to the feet of Karacic who swept home a first-time shot to claim his maiden international goal.
Disaster struck for Nepal on the stroke of half-time when Rohit Chand was adjudged to have dragged Martin Boyle down as the Socceroos attacker burst toward goal.
Boyle was preparing to go one-on-one with the goalkeeper before feeling contact on his shoulder from the chasing Nepal defender and going down, leading to the dismissal which left the trailing side to fight with ten men for the remainder of the contest.
A pair of chances presented to Boyle early in the second half, but the Socceroos forward failed to hit the target with a header off Hrustic's inviting cross or Duke's pass slid into the box, which Boyle struck off his left foot into the side netting.
But in the 57th minute Boyle found the back of the net, tapping home a cross from Jackson Irvine which skipped past three defenders on the way to his path for a simple tap-in from close range.
A deflected Leckie header from a corner routine hit the post in the minutes following Australia's third goal as the Socceroos looked to capitalise on a strong period of dominance.
Hrustic dispatched a number of shots on goal in the second half without managing to write his name on the scoresheet before substitute Awer Mabil did his best to notch an assist from a pair of crosses to both Nikita Rukavytsya and Harry Souttar, which the pair of Socceroos angled on goal with headers only for goalkeeper Kiran Kumar Limbu to keep out with two expert saves.
Nepal managed to stave off the Socceroos' late attacking surge as the final whistle blew with Australia's 3-0 lead intact.
The Socceroos will be in action again on Wednesday, June 16 (AEST) against Jordan - the last of eight second-round qualification fixtures which Australia can end with a perfect record by securing an eighth-consecutive international victory.
Australia 3 (Leckie 6', Karacic 38', Boyle 57')
Venue: Jaber Al-Hamad Stadium, Kuwait City, Kuwait
Australia Starting XI: 12. Andrew REDMAYNE (GK) (18. Lawrence THOMAS 83'), 2. Milos DEGENEK, 3. Fran KARACIC, 6. Martin BOYLE (11. Awer MABIL 72'), 7. Mathew LECKIE (C) (13. Nikita RUKAVYTSYA 62'), 10. Ajdin HRUSTIC (23. Ruon TONGYIK 83'), 14. Connor METCALFE, 15. Mitchell DUKE (9. Jamie MACLAREN 63'), 16. Aziz BEHICH, 19. Harry SOUTTAR, 22. Jackson IRVINE,
Substitutes: 1. Mathew RYAN (GK), 4. Rhyan GRANT, 5. James HOLLAND, 8. Ryan MCGOWAN, 17. Christopher IKONOMIDIS, 20. Trent SAINSBURY, 21. Riley MCGREE.
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Nil
Australia v Jordan
Date: Wednesday, 16 June (AEST) 2021
Broadcast: Live on FOX SPORTS, Kayo Sports, ABC TV, and My Football Live App