Australia 2 – 0 Lebanon, CommBank Stadium

The Socceroos scored a comfortable yet underwhelming 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying win against Lebanon at CommBank Stadium tonight, though injuries to Riley McGree and Jordan Bos clouded the result

In front of a crowd of 27,026Keanu Baccus and Kye Rowles scored their first goals in green and gold as Australia controlled the match, but left much to be desired going forward.

They also lost McGree and Bos within 20 minutes of each other in the first half, and coach Graham Arnold confirmed they would miss the return game on Tuesday.

“I’d say both are out [of the next game],” he said at the post-match press conference.

“[They were] both late arrivals, I think they arrived at 1am on Wednesday morning. It was tough to take for them early in the game, and obviously I used two sub windows in the first half, so I only had one left in the second half.”

In their first international since elimination at the Asian Cup, Arnold made a few changes, with Rowles shifted out of position at left back, while he opted for an untested strike partnership of Kusini Yengi and Adam Taggart up front.

But tonight’s performance won’t quieten Arnold’s critics, with the Socceroos only mustering 10 shots despite having 64 per cent of the ball.

In particular, Yengi and Taggart failed to impose themselves on the game, and both were substituted with more than 20 minutes left to play.

Arnold admitted his side can do better than what they produced on the pitch.

“We can do better, and we must do better,” he said.

“[We had] a bit of sloppiness, turning over the ball – and the pitch wasn’t easy – but some of the turnovers the boys don’t normally make. We’ve got to be better than that.”

Despite that the team got the job done, with Baccus opening the scoring after just six minutes, breaking his international duck with a touch of luck, when his cross caught out Lebanon keeper Mostafa Matar and looped into the far corner of the net.

The midfielder almost had his second soon after when he struck a fierce volley towards goal, only for it to veer off target.

It was a strong performance from the 25-year-old St Mirren midfielder, who recorded 71 passes and won four tackles on his old stomping ground.

McGree’s exit after 15 minutes exposed Australia’s lack of creativity as they struggled to put together good passages of attacking play.

Lebanon, who were constantly on the back foot, weren’t able to get a shot at goal until the half had almost drawn to a close, with Nassar Nassar’s lunged shot in the box comfortably saved by Maty Ryan.

As expected Lebanon were dominated in the possession stakes in the opening period, but their organisation at the back and intensity in the press made the Socceroos look wasteful with the ball.

Bos’ injury allowed for the return of creative midfielder Ajdin Hrustic who added direction and guile to Australia’s attack, and Arnold admits he can be a difference maker for the Socceroos.

“He gives you that little bit of X Factor –  some of the flicks around the corner, a little chip over the top –  those type of things [are] what we’re wanting, and what we need in the final third against some of these opponents,” he said.

Despite their sluggishness going forward, Australia were able to double their lead in the 55th minute, as Lebanon failed to deal with a corner, and Rowles was free at the back post to lash the ball home with a strong toe poke.

Lebanon almost halved the deficit on the hour mark when Ali Tneich found space on the right, and Ryan had to be alert to tip his strong shot away from goal.

Lebanon substitute Mohamad Haidar then flashed a shot wide of goal as the game reached its climax, and they had their best chance of the match when Daniel Kuri’s shot rattled the post after a poor giveaway from Cameron Burgess.

The Cedars forced another good save from Ryan at the end of the game, as he palmed away Karim Darwich’s free-kick.

Despite the win, questions surrounding Arnold after their Asian Cup exit still linger ahead of the return fixture in Canberra on Tuesday.

Main image credit: Harley Appezzato/Front Page Football.