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Asian Qualifiers - Group B: Australia impress against Kuwait to stay perfect

Kuwait City: Australia took a major step towards the Third Round of Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, cruising to a 3-0 win over Kuwait at Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium on Thursday.

Ahead in an instant through captain Mathew Leckie’s goal, the Socceroos proved much too strong for the group hosts, with Jackson Irvine and Ajdin Hrustic also getting on the scoresheet in a commanding performance.

The result puts Australia five points clear of both Kuwait and Jordan at the top of Group B, meaning wins in their next two matches against Nepal and Chinese Taipei will confirm them as the group winners with a game to spare.

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In their first match in 567 days, it took the Socceroos just over a minute to get back into the swing of things.

The temperature was in the high 30s as the much began, but Kuwait were caught cold as a totally unmarked Leckie latched on Martin Boyle’s cross, heading the ball down and into the net to open the scoring.

A creditable long range effort from Fawaz Al Otaibi served as Kuwait’s attempt at an instant reply, but that was a rare interruption to Australia’s early dominance, as Graham Arnold’s side piled on the early pressure.

That pressure told after Hrustic was tripped in the penalty area, with Irvine arriving to double the lead after his Hibernian teammate Boyle had seen his penalty kick saved by Sulaiman Abdulghafoor in the 24th minute.

Boyle missed a clear-cut chance to atone for that miss five minutes later, but this time he missed the target from close range after Irvine had put him clean through on goal with a terrific pass.

Australia took their two-goal advantage with them to the half-time break, but they needed a smart near post save from Mat Ryan to maintain the lead when the dangerous Shabab Al Khaldi stung the goalkeeper’s palms just after the hour mark.

But it was the Socceroos’ night, something that was beyond doubt when then outstanding Hrustic scored a brilliant free-kick, curling the ball in off the frame of the goal from all of 30 yards in the 66th minute, and making the very most of his first national team start.

In addition to their three goals, Australia will have been pleased with the introduction of three new faces, with Fran Karacic, Kenneth Dougall and Riley McGree all making their first senior appearances for the national team.

Their command of the group firmly established, Australia will be expected to add three more points when they meet last placed Chinese Taipei on Monday, while Kuwait have eight days to prepare for what is now a crucial match against Jordan.

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