Who’s the Bos? Jordy and Jackson see spluttering Socceroos past India in drab Asian Cup opener
Australia have began their quest for the Asian Cup with a comfortable 2-0 win over India, though the manner of the win will have done little to answer the questions facing Graham Arnold and his team.
Goals from Jackson Irvine and substitute Jordy Bos were enough to deliver the win, but against a massively overmatched Indian side, the Socceroos showed little inspiration for much of the game.
“There’s always a bit of pressure on that first result so the most important thing was getting off to a winning start,” said captain and keeper Mat Ryan, who sported a face mask to shield a fractured cheekbone.
“There was a bit of rustiness which we’ll look to improve on, but all in all it’s a good first game.
“Our focus will turn to recovering before the Syria game. I’m sure we’ll be better for the run-out tonight and we’ll put in a better performance on Thursday.”
Ex-Melbourne City star Bos scored with his very first touch of the ball, just 40 seconds after entering the game, turning home a cross from fellow sub Riley McGree in what was perhaps the first incisive piece of play from Australia.
“It was amazing,” said Bos of his first Socceroos goal.
“I came on, drifted the back post and it just felt to me, my first touch. It was a great moment and it’s a great start to the campaign for me.
“We had just had to get this game out of the way and get three points. It’s hard to score against teams that drop so low. Hopefully getting the result leads to a good campaign for us.”
Anyone who came expecting free-flowing attacking football would have left disappointed, with Australia unable to muster anything serious on the India goal until the second half.
Arnold fielded his strongest side on paper – including a debutant, Gethin Jones – but it was not until McGree entered in the second half that the Socceroos found any creativity.
They had the quality in the end to get the result, which on day one of the campaign, is the most important thing.
This is a side that has thrived on a strong defence and counterattack, and the gambit from Arnold will be that his side can get themselves to the pointy end with their limited attack and let the defence take over once they have to play the better teams.
The biggest worry for Australia has surrounded their ability to break down teams that are happy to let them have the ball, and the first half did little to assuage those fears.
The Socceroos were gifted all the possession and field position – India’s fans occasionally cheered then when crossed the halfway line – but looked toothless, reduced to swinging in crosses hopefully.
Their best chance came thanks to Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in the India goal, who lost the ball in the build-up phase. To spare his blushes, Connor Metcalfe fired his shot straight back at the keeper.
The St Pauli midfielder would spurn several chances and, by the time the first half ended, it was arguable that the best opportunity was the first of the match, when Indian talisman Sunil Chhetri had stooped to head wide following a missed interception by Socceroos centre half Harry Souttar.
It took another error from Gurpreet to get Australia on the board. Irvine had already threatened from range within the second half before opening the scoring in the 49th minute.
The Indian keeper created the opportunity, flapping at a cross that he might have left alone, with the ball dropping at the feet of Irvine. He didn’t fail to take the gift.
With a goal in the bag, it was never likely that India would have enough to change the result – though a wayward backpass almost gifted them one back – and Arnold used the opportunity to shuffle his pack.
Duly two of the subs combined, with McGree getting to the byline to make the cross and Bos approaching the back post just in time to tap in.
He might have had a second late on, too, with McGree again the architect. This time, however, Bos fired wide.