Goodwin brace edges Australia closer to World Cup

MELBOURNE: Craig Goodwin scored a brace on his return from illness as Australia booked their place in the third round of Asian World Cup qualifying with a 5-0 rout of Lebanon at Canberra Stadium on Tuesday.

Forward Goodwin, who sat out last week's 2-0 win over the Lebanese while battling a virus, rocketed in a long-range strike after half-time and steered in the final goal in the 81st minute to the delight of a record crowd of 25,023 at the venue.

Goodwin, 32, also set up former Adelaide team mate Kusini Yengi's first international goal in the second minute and had a hand in a Lebanon own goal a minute before his first strike.

"Maybe I'll have to be sick more often," the Saudi-based winger joked.

"It turned out well, I had a good rest.

"I'd only had a couple of training sessions before the game but I spoke with the boss and felt good, so he chucked me in."

With their fourth straight win in the current phase, Graham Arnold's Australia cemented top spot in Asia's Group I, which also includes Palestine and Bangladesh.

The match was Lebanon's "home" qualifier, after the Asian Football Confederation requested the tie be moved from the nation due to the war in Gaza.

Australia won few plaudits after their scrappy win over 115th-ranked Lebanon in Sydney but Arnold was thrilled with the response in Canberra where Patrick Yazbek, of Lebanese descent, enjoyed a fruitful debut off the bench.

Norway-based midfielder Yazbek replaced injured playmaker Ajdin Hrustic before the hour-mark and set up John Iredale's first international goal in his second Socceroos match with a neat cross from the left in the 68th minute.

"I was very happy and proud of the young ones. They took ownership when they went on the park and the future is bright," Arnold said.

After a gutsy effort in Sydney, Lebanon had a tough night in Canberra and were lucky only to be a goal down at the break after Australia squandered a slew of early chances.

The floodgates opened straight after the restart, however, with Goodwin finding Harry Souttar's head with a free kick.

Lebanon keeper Mostafa Matar parried the ball off the line but it pinged off team mate Bassel Jradi's shins into the net.

A minute later, Hrustic scooped a ball over to Goodwin at the inside left channel where he chested it down and volleyed into the right corner from distance.

Lebanon all but pared one back minutes later when Nader Matar fired a long shot into the cross-bar.

However, Lebanon's momentum was lost seconds later when midfielder Ali Tneich committed a studs-up challenge on Hrustic.

It drew a yellow card and had the injured Socceroo limp off the ground with trainers after a long break in play. - Reuters

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