To blame Lewis Miller for conceding the penalty and the defeat to Korea Republic – is to overlook a few key points plaguing the Socceroos as a team.
Defender Harry Souttar says the Socceroos’ unconvincing 1-0 win over Palestine was an important lesson about the difficulties of qualifying for the World Cup through Asia.
Australia sit top of group I on six points after Souttar nodded home in the 18th minute at the Jaber Al-Ahmed International Stadium in Kuwait.
Only a magnificent save from Mat Ryan just before half-time stopped an excellent Palestine (seven shots, two on target) equalising.
The Socceroos (eight shots, five on target) struggled with Palestine’s intense pressing and failed to create many meaningful chances.
“I don’t think we were best pleased with our performance. We can play a lot, lot better,” Souttar told Network 10.
“But it’s a great lesson for us as a team and a couple of the new guys coming into the squad about playing games away in Asia.
“If you want to go through and qualify, these are the games you’ve got to win.
“We stood up to the task and end of the day we won the game but we know as a group and as a squad we can play a whole lot better.”
With Bangladesh and Lebanon drawing 1-1 in their earlier match, Australia will resume qualifying in March, after the Asian Cup, four points clear with four games to play.
The top two teams in the group progress to the next stage.
“It’s exactly what I predicted and thought: that Palestine were going to come out with that type of energy, that type of workrate and fight and you’ve got to give full credit to Palestine,” coach Graham Arnold told Network 10.
“Probably we didn’t play our best but the most important thing was the three points.
“I’ll have a bit of break now, a bit of a reflection on everything and I look forward to that.”
The win was soured by a groin injury to right-back Ryan Strain in the 21st minute.
The game was relocated from the West Bank to Kuwait due to the escalation in violence in the region, but the crowd was clearly pro-Palestine.
Palestine players wore keffiyehs around their necks for their national anthem and both teams lined up around the centre circle before kick-off for a minute’s silence.
In response to Hamas’ October 7 attack that killed about 1,200 people, Israel has bombarded Gaza.
Palestinian officials say more than 13,000 people in Gaza have been killed.
The Socceroos have committed a portion of their match payments to Oxfam’s humanitarian efforts in Gaza, with the sum matched by Football Australia.
For the goal, Craig Goodwin curled a wicked left-footed corner onto the forehead of Souttar, who drove home his 10th international goal.
Palestine weren’t deterred and almost equalised in the 45th minute, when Ryan made himself big to deny Tamer Seyam’s close-range shot.
Socceroos young gun Jordy Bos should have scored when he turned a free header onto the bar in the 65th minute.
From there, Palestine had Australia on the back foot, but were unable to conjure an equaliser.
Son Heung-min scored twice and set up the third as South Korea handed China a 3-0 defeat in Shenzhen on Tuesday to complete back-to-back wins at the start of their challenge for a place at the 2026 World Cup finals.
Son put the Koreans in front in the Group C clash in the second phase of Asia’s preliminaries with an 11th minute penalty after Hwang Hee-chan had been fouled in the area.
He added the second in the final minute of the first half with a header for Jurgen Klinsmann’s side.
The Tottenham Hotspur forward turned provider three minutes from time when he drifted in a free kick from the right that Jung Seung-hyun headed past Yan to put the seal on the victory.
In the opening set China had beaten Thailand who bounced back from that loss to beat Singapore 3-1.
South Korea are one of seven countries in Asian qualifying, including Australia who beat Palestine in Kuwait thanks to Harry Souttar’s goal, with two wins from two. The others are Iraq, Japan, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia.
Mohanad Ali scored six minutes into injury time to earn Iraq a 1-0 win over hosts Vietnam in Group F as Jesus Casas’ side moved onto six points.
Vietnam remain in second in the group standings after the Philippines and Indonesia shared a 1-1 draw in Manila.
Qatar, the host of last year’s World Cup, followed their 8-1 defeat of Afghanistan by beating India 3-0 in Group A.
Japan have opened with a brace of 5-0 wins, beating Syria by that score in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, after putting a handful past Myanmar.
Also in Group B Jong Il Gwan scored a hat-trick as North Korea picked up their first win of the campaign with a 6-1 thrashing of Myanmar in Yangon having started their quest for a place at the finals last Thursday with a draw against Syria.
Malaysia top Group D after winning in Taiwan 1-0, Saudi Arabia won 2-0 in Jordan, and the UAE also doubled up with a 2-0 win in Bahrain.