Maclaren: Drought-breaking goal made the difference
Dubai: With nine scoreless matches in the green and gold behind him, Jamie Maclaren shared his relief at scoring his first international goal; one which the striker credits with setting the tone for Australia's 3-0 win over Palestine at Rashid Stadium on Friday.
The 25-year-old came into the crucial tie under pressure following Australia's 1-0 defeat to Jordan and a series of quiet displays for the national team, but he silenced his critics with a superb 18th-minute header which was followed by further goals to Awer Mabil and Apostolos Giannou in their AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Group B tie.
Maclaren told the-AFC.com the early goal made for a vastly different experience than the one endured against the Jordanians.
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"On a personal level, I'm obviously relieved and really happy I could contribute to today’s game," he said.
"We were very confident - forget about the result against Jordan - we always knew what we had to do coming into this game, and we had to win.
"We believed that today we would go out there, start really well and score early goals, and that’s what we did. When you score early goals it really settles yourself and I felt like we controlled the whole game.
"It’s different when you score early, against Jordan we gave them a chance to score and when they score, they make it difficult, but if we’re the team that scores early it settles the tempo and you play your game, and, for us, I felt we were ruthless and at the back we were solid."
A consistent finisher since beginning life as a professional with Perth Glory six years ago, Maclaren has bagged roughly a goal every two games in a club career which has taken in stints in Australia, Germany and Scotland.
Similar success had, until now, eluded him on the international stage, but the Hibernian forward revealed his belief that he could deliver for the Socceroos had never waned.
"Yeah it’s probably hard to explain, it’s been a long time coming," he said.
"I’ve never really gone off track. I’m a goal scorer, I know chances will always come my way, and when that chance does come I was there to take it. Now it’s time for me to step up and really kick on."
Maclaren's goal was followed a second, scored just two minutes later by the increasingly important Mabil, who has now found the back of the net three times in just six matches for Australia.
The winger, who only made his national team debut last October, revealed his growing comfort on the international stage.
"I think I’m getting started now," said the Denmark-based 23-year-old.
"There’s a few things I need to work on. I need to get fully sharp and I think it’s starting and it started today. Today was better than the last game and the next game is going to be better than today’s game."
Three goals and three points against the Palestinians was a significant upgrade on last Sunday's 1-0 defeat to Jordan, but Mabil said the two matches serve as an example of the fine margins which can significantly impact results at the top level.
"(Our approach) was pretty much the same," he explained.
"Last week the result didn’t go our way, but we were the better team and we knew that. Today we needed to continue doing our work, but with more intensity.
"You could see that in the first 20 minutes, we scored those two goals and then we could’ve gone on to score more. That’s the momentum we’re building and we still have a lot to give."
With their campaign ostensibly back on track, a draw or better against Syria in Al Ain on Tuesday will guarantee Australia's progression to the Round of 16 and continue their proud record of never failing to reach the AFC Asian Cup knockout stage since their debut in 2007
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