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MD3 - Group B: Australia 5-0 Nepal

Canberra: Australia made it two wins from two in their FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Asian Qualifiers campaign, cruising to a 5-0 home success against Nepal on Thursday.

Jamie Maclaren netted a hat-trick and first-gamer Harry Souttar bagged a brace as Graham Arnold’s side scored three times in the opening half-hour to climb to the top of Group B.

The Socceroos will now head north to Kaohsiung, where they will meet Chinese Taipei on Tuesday, while Nepal face another difficult away day in Jordan.

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Fresh from a historic 2-0 win in Taipei last time out, Nepal’s night in the Australian capital nearly began in disaster when a clearance from goalkeeper Kiran Kumar Limbu cannoned into Devendra Tamang, with the Nepalese shot-stopper scampering back to prevent an own goal with barely a minute played.

Nepal survived on that occasion, but Australia’s ascendancy meant the first goal wasn’t long in coming, and it duly arrived when Maclaren scored from close-range after Kiran spilled Craig Goodwin’s initial effort in the sixth minute.

Maclaren (pictured below, left) doubled his, and Australia’s tally in the 19th minute, latching onto Rhyan Grant’s header across goal to nod in his second, before towering defender Harry Souttar added a third five minutes later, marking his international debut with simplest of headed goals from Goodwin’s corner kick.

Mathew Leckie was denied another goal on the stroke of half-time, with the assistant referee’s flag ruling out what would have been his third of the campaign, before another deflection – this time off Dinesh Rajbanshi in the 59th minute – helped Souttar head home his second less than an hour into his Socceroos career.

Australia’s points were safe, but the damage could have been much worse had it not been for the commitment of Nepal, who put their bodies on the line and blocked countless shots at goal.

That, coupled with some second-half sloppiness in Australia’s final third, prevented the hosts from running up a more emphatic total, although Souttar did go close to becoming the first Socceroo in almost 40 years to score a hat-trick on debut when he sent a header wide in the dying stages.

While Souttar will have to wait for another day, Maclaren succeeded in completing his treble when he showed exemplary poise and control to beat Kiran from close range in the 90th minute to cap a trouble-free night for Australia.

Photos: Football Federation Australia

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