Australia lose 2-1 to Ecuador at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne
The Socceroos were brought back to earth in a 2-1 defeat to Ecuador as Graham Arnold handed more opportunities to the team’s exciting new generation of players – this time, to more mixed results.
Brandon Borrello’s first international goal put Australia ahead in the first half of Tuesday night’s clash at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium, but despite the best efforts of debutant goalkeeper Joe Gauci – who made a string of terrific saves – they could not contain the visitors.
Clearly intent on exacting revenge for Friday night’s 3-1 defeat in Sydney, Ecuador were slicker on the ball and much more physical in the tackle. The Socceroos were more disjointed at both ends of the pitch, as Arnold would have anticipated after making seven changes.
A second-half penalty, given away by Thomas Deng, allowed Pervis Estupinan to level the scores from the spot in the 51st minute. William Pacho brilliantly nodded home a corner 14 minutes later to give the visitors the lead. On the balance of play, it was fully deserved.
While the result is disappointing, there is no great shame in a defeat to Ecuador. They only missed out on the World Cup knockout phase due to goal difference, and Arnold rolled out an inexperienced team, which included just five starters from Qatar. The players he exposed here will be much better for the experience – including Melbourne City left-back Jordan Bos, who got his first taste of international football off the bench, and rarely looked out of place.
If last week’s clash gave Socceroos fans a glimpse of the future, this was a much longer, clearer and probably more realistic look at what lies ahead. Arnold handed a debut to Gauci, the Adelaide United custodian, a second cap to Hearts midfielder Cameron Devlin, a third to former Melbourne Victory defender Deng, and a first start in almost two years for Borrello, who played up front in the striking role he has excelled in this season for Western Sydney Wanderers.
Hometown lad Jackson Irvine wore the captain’s armband for the first time, becoming just the 63rd player to skipper the Socceroos in the team’s 100-year history.
Curiously, Arnold chose not to use 17-year-old excitement machine Nestory Irankunda, who was in line to become the youngest Socceroos player of all time. Manchester City youngster Alex Robertson was also an unused sub.