Socceroos draw a blank against Macedonia

The Socceroos have had their momentum halted by European minnows Macedonia in a dour scoreless draw in Skopje.

Asian champions Australia couldn’t build on last week’s impressive 2-2 draw against world champions Germany in Kaiserslautern, creating little in attack against the world’s 108th-ranked side on Monday.

Both teams lacked fluency on a choppy pitch at Phillip II Arena, with just a few thousand fans turning up to watch the underwhelming international friendly.

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Among the positives for Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou was a strong game from in-form Melbourne City midfielder Aaron Mooy, who started in one of six changes from the draw against Germany.

Right back Tarek Elrich earned a first international cap, starting at right back, while teenager Chris Ikonomidis came off the bench late to become the first player since 1980 to make his Socceroos debut before playing a senior club game.

Asian Cup hero Massimo Luongo, Trent Sainsbury, Adam Federici and Aziz Behich all came into the starting line-up and the changes looked to take some wind out of the Socceroos’ sails although Australia dominated possession and field position in the first half.

A 30th-minute Nathan Burns effort was the Socceroos’ sole shot on target and they lacked the attacking fluency that caused Germany so many problems.

Macedonia looked dangerous on the counter at times, with Elrich forced to make a crucial header to stop the home side’s best attacking move in the 16th minute.

Mile Jedinak earned a booking just before halftime for a challenge that resulted in Dushko Trajovski being stretchered off the field.

The second half was equally scrappy, though Macedonia caused the Socceroos problems with their pace in transition.

Luongo grew into the game and Leckie threatened in attack but was let down by his finishing on several occasions, including a free header from a dangerous Burns cross in the 56th minute.

Bailey Wright, Tommy Oar, Tomi Juric, Oliver Bozanic and Mitch Langerak all saw game time in the second half, with 19-year-old Lazio reserves winger Ikonomidis looking lively after coming on with eight minutes to play.

The match was Australia’s final hit-out before 2018 World Cup qualifying begins in June.


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