FORMER Bathurst District Football player Rhyan Grant and the Socceroos have put themselves within one point of the AFC Asian Cup knockout stages thanks to a crucial win over Palestine.
Friday night’s 3-0 victory means the Australians can get away with a draw in their upcoming game against a struggling Syria and still qualify for the round of 16.
Grant was promoted to the starting right back spot in the Palestine meeting following an injury to Josh Risdon.
As he did in the opening match of the tournament against Jordan (where he was a half-time substitute in the 1-0 loss) Grant was pressing high along the right wing with a series of quick runs.
The former Bathurst player created chances with those moves, including a dangerous first half cross through the Palestine box, but the opening goal came courtesy of a Tom Rogic ball into a waiting Jamie McLaren.
McLaren’s header was well placed into the bottom left corner to give claim his first goal in national colours and give the Socceroos an 18th minute lead.
Just two minutes later the Socceroos found another goal when a cross from Chris Ikonomidis to the back post found the charging Awer Mabil who tapped home his shot to double the advantage.
Socceroos secured their three points on the verge of second half injury time when a late call up to the Australian squad, Apostolos Giannou, headed home another pinpoint Ikonomidis cross.
Australian coach Graham Arnold described Grant’s efforts as “exceptional”.
“We worked on different ways to break them down but I think the most important thing was our mentality,” Socceroos captain Mark Milligan told socceroos.com.au.
“We were a little bit more patient and we kept moving the ball quickly.
“We wanted to make sure we picked our moments to go forward, we wanted to make sure we hit our rotations and timings.
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“We know what it’s like when you don’t have the ball – it can be very tough. It’s always going to be hard to sustain.
“I think from the very beginning our intent was positive and we caused them problems.”
Next up for the Socceroos will be a familiar opponent in Syria.
The Australians came up against Syria in a hard-fought 2018 FIFA World Cup AFC fifth place playoff tie.
An extra-time win at ANZ Stadium got the Socceroos through to the inter-confederation play-off, where they beat Honduras.
However, the Syrian side have struggled this tournament. They had a surprise nil-all draw with Palestine before a 2-0 loss to Jordan saw the team axe head coach Bernd Stange.
The Socceroos can’t knock Jordan off top spot on the ladder but a draw will be enough to secure second place in Group B.