October 16, 2018 / 1:06 AM / a month ago

Soccer-Arnold kicks off second Australia stint with thumping win

MELBOURNE, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Graham Arnold’s second stint in charge of Australia started smoothly with a thumping 4-0 win over Middle Eastern minnows Kuwait in a friendly on Monday but the Socceroos boss was disappointed that his team left more goals out on the park.

Apostolos Giannou, Tom Rogic and debutant Awer Mabil all scored after a 12th-minute own goal by defender Khalid Mohamed Ibrahim gave the visitors a perfect start over the 159th-ranked hosts in Kuwait City.

Arnold saw “a lot of positives” in the 43rd-ranked Socceroos’ first match since a 2-0 loss to Peru at the World Cup, but their finishing was not among them.

“You can see we worked hard on our rotations, the penetration and the pressing,” he told reporters.

“We still need the icing in the cake which is the finishing. The execution will come. The performance was promising but we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

Australia, who will defend their Asian Cup title in the United Arab Emirates in January, may have a better gauge of their progress in a month’s time when they host 55th-ranked South Korea in a friendly in Brisbane.

There were still encouraging signs in Kuwait City for a side seeking to regenerate following the retirements of long-serving forward Tim Cahill and captain Mile Jedinak.

Arnold, back in charge of the Socceroos after an ill-fated stint in 2006-07, started with a 4-3-3 formation and much of the same squad that exited the World Cup’s group stage.

He retained the same back four that performed admirably against champions France, Denmark and Peru, but there was change at both ends with Danny Vukovic in goal and Cyprus-based Giannou beating out Tomi Juric and Daniel Arzani as starting striker.

The 28-year-old Giannou capitalised on a defensive error to grab his first goal in his sixth Socceroos appearance in the 21st minute with a clean finish.

But he did little else to trouble the Kuwait defence before being substituted after the hour mark and may not be the answer to the Socceroos’ search for a potent forward.

Arnold promised Rogic would have more freedom to express himself on the eve of the match and the attacking midfielder duly delivered with a dominant all-round display capped by a long-range strike in the 80th minute.

Socceroos fans may have been most encouraged by the effectiveness of Arnold’s substitutions, with Juric, Arzani and Mabil proving a handful when they came off the bench in the last half-hour.

Mabil, who was raised in a refugee camp in Kenya, celebrated a fine goal on debut, finishing off a neat move by Juric to steer the ball into the left corner.

With Australia unable to score a goal in open play at the World Cup, Arnold said he had eschewed defensive drills during the team’s first training camp in Turkey and concentrated solely on honing their attack.

“It’s all been about rotations and the new style,” he said.

“We’re playing with three nines and the fullbacks giving us width, and it’s about getting more men in the box.

“I can only judge the players’ performance by what we practised at training and if I do that I give the boys a good mark.”

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Greg Stutchbury

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