Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has praised his young and relatively inexperienced players for their Asian Cup response against Palestine.
Just days after the Socceroos suffered a tough loss to Jordan, they bounced back with a fine 3-0 victory over Palestine, with a new-look front three making a difference.
Young forward Chris Ikonomidis was the star of the show with two assists, while Jamie Maclaren scored his first international goal and Awer Mabil also found the back of the net.
“Look I’ve got so much belief in this playing group and (once) that first game was out of the way, we moved on quickly,” Arnold told Fox Sports’ Daniel Garb.
“My job was to pick them up straight away and make them happy again.
“But you know, it’s just a wonderful occasion and a wonderful experience for those young boys. Chris Ikonomidis was fantastic, Awer Mabil — fantastic. A very young front line, players who haven’t played in major competitions before.
“Rhyan Grant did exceptional and Degenek (did too). I keep talking about getting the pool deeper and deeper and I look forward to this four-year journey but it’s one step at a time.”
Arnold reserved particular praise for Maclaren, who finally found the back of the net for his country in his 10th international appearance.
He also applauded the effort of Apostolos Giannou, who was a late inclusion in the Socceroos squad — brought in when Martin Boyle was injured — and scored a late header as a substitute.
“I’m rapt (for Maclaren) because the kid does so much work — his movement off the ball and in and around the penalty box is so good,” Arnold said.
“And very pleased for him and also Apo — when he came on, a great header.
“And another day we could have scored another three or four goals.
“But we’re content with the performance but there’s a lot more improvement and I expect a lot more improvement as we go on.”
The Socceroos had struggled desperately to score from open play in recent years, especially in Asia.
But they put some concerns somewhat to bed with a disciplined performance to break down the Palestine defence.
“When you lose, you learn and we learned a lot against Jordan and we went back onto the training pitch and worked hard on playing against teams with packed defences,” Arnold said.
“And I think today we showed everyone that we can break them down.”
Arnold said the Socceroos would now turn their full attention towards Syria, who were left reeling by a 2-0 loss to Jordan.
“It’s one game at a time, now our full focus is on Syria and winning that game and then being ready for what’s after,” he said.
“But for the moment, it’s just Syria and that’s it.”