Souttar heads unconvincing Socceroos past Palestine

Australia were not at their best but managed to defeat Palestine.

Australia were not at their best but managed to defeat Palestine. Photo: Getty

Towering defender Harry Souttar has maintained his goalscoring form to steer the Socceroos to a hard-fought but unconvincing 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over Palestine.

The Socceroos sit top of group I on six points after Souttar nodded home in the 18th minute at the Jaber Al-Ahmed International Stadium.

But only a magnificent save from Mat Ryan just before half-time stopped an excellent Palestine (seven shots, two on target) equalising.

The Socceroos (eight shots, five on target) struggled to deal with Palestine’s intense pressing and failed to create many meaningful chances.

With Bangladesh and Lebanon drawing 1-1 in their earlier match, Australia will resume qualifying in March, after the Asian Cup, four points clear with four games to play.

The top two teams in the group go through to the next stage.

Coach Graham Arnold stressed he was “very proud” of his players for how they handled a difficult lead-in.

“It’s exactly what I predicted and thought: that Palestine were going to come out with that type of energy, that type of workrate and fight and you’ve got to give full credit to Palestine,” Arnold told Network Ten.

“Probably we didn’t play our best but the most important thing was the three points.

“I’ll have a bit of break now, a bit of a reflection on everything and I look forward to that.”

The win was soured by a groin injury to right-back Ryan Strain in the 21st minute, with Lewis Miller replacing the St Mirren defender.

Arnold opted for a more experienced line-up than the team that beat Bangladesh 7-0 in Melbourne on Thursday night.

Aziz Behich, Kye Rowles, Martin Boyle and Strain replaced Jordan Bos, Cameron Burgess, Brandon Borrello and Miller.

Martin Boyle returned to the Socceroos team for the World Cup qualifier with Palestine in Kuwait.

Palestinian supporters in the stands ahead of the game in Kuwait. Photo: Getty

One game, two stories

The game was relocated from the West Bank to Kuwait due to the escalation in violence in the region, but the crowd was clearly pro-Palestine.

The Palestine players wore keffiyehs around their necks for their national anthem and both teams lined up around the centre circle before kick-off for a minute’s silence.

In response to Hamas’ October 7 attack that killed about 1200 people, Israel has bombarded Gaza with retaliatory strikes.

Palestinian officials say more than 13,000 people in Gaza have been killed.

The Socceroos have committed a portion of their match payments to Oxfam’s humanitarian efforts in Gaza, with the sum matched by Football Australia.

Like against Bangladesh, Craig Goodwin delivered the ball for Souttar to open the scoring.

Goodwin curled a wicked left-footed corner onto the forehead of Souttar, who drove a powerful header home for his 10th international goal.

Harry Souttar, heading clear from Palestine’s Oday Dabaghb, was a dominant presence in both boxes.

Palestine weren’t deterred, continuing to press and almost equalling in the 45th minute.

Musab Al Battat’s cross picked out Ataa Jaber, whose squaring touch landed in the path of Tamer Seyam.

But Ryan made himself big to block a shot seemingly destined to nestle in the back of the net.

Borrello forced a good save from Palestine goalkeeper Rami Hamadeh in the 64th minute, while Bos should have scored when he headed Connor Metcalfe’s subsequent corner onto the bar.

From there, Palestine had the Socceroos on the back foot, but were unable to conjure an equaliser.


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