Socceroos beat New Zealand 2-0

Jason Cummings’ World Cup “dream” remains alive after he scored on his Socceroos debut as a host of Australia’s future stars combined to beat New Zealand 2-0 at Eden Park on Sunday.

Scotsman Cummings, who qualifies to play for Australia via his mother’s heritage, was among six players given Socceroos debut by national coach Graham Arnold

And Arnold would have been impressed with what he saw, particularly in the second half when the Australians stepped up a gear after a sluggish opening 45 minutes to make it back-to-back wins over the All Whites following last Thursday night’s 1-0 victory at Suncorp Stadium.

Keen for a host of fringe players to put their cases forward for selection in his World Cup squad, Arnold fielded an entirely different starting side to the 11 that started in the first game of the series.

Defender Harrison Delbridge was the only debutant to start the match, however Arnold gave five more players – attackers Cummings and Garang Kuol, midfielders Cameron Devlin and Keanu Baccus, and right back Ryan Strain – their Socceroos debut.

And they didn’t disappoint, with Central Coast teenager Kuol’s power and pace evident in the build-up to his Mariners teammate Cummings’ goal, which came from the penalty spot after his goal-bound strike hit the arm of New Zealand left back Liberato Cacace.

“He caused a bit of a ruckus out there with the opposition – he’s a great kid,” Arnold said of Cummings.

“It’s fantastic. He hit the shot (that led) to the handball, so it would have gone in anyway, so that’s probably why he thought he should take the penalty because he deserved to score a goal.” 

Cummings said he was “absolutely buzzing”.

“I was just wanting to get on the pitch,” the 27-year-old former Dundee forward told Channel 10.

“I got a good 30 minutes. The ball fell to me, and I caught it well. It was going in and the boy handballed it, so I was fuming.

“I thought ‘I’ve got to step up and take this (penalty)’. Fair play to the lads and (teammate) Riley (McGree). They asked me if I wanted to take it, and I said ‘of course’.

“It’s a striker’s dream … to step up, take a penalty and put it in the back of the net, not a problem.”

Cummings said it was also his “dream” to be part of the Socceroos’ World Cup squad.

“All I need to do now is go back with the Mariners, work hard, do well there, score goals and you never know.” he said.

Cummings’ 80th-minute spot kick sealed Australia’s win after fellow striker Mitch Duke gave the Socceroos the lead in the 54th minute.

Japan-based Duke’s powerful header was a reward for Australia’s good start to the second half.

Midfielder Connor Metcalfe was the provider with a dangerous cross that Duke met with authority to score his eighth goal for the national team.

The Socceroos should have led 1-0 at half-time after some unselfish play from Duke presented Marco Tilio with a gilt-edged opportunity in the 44th minute.

Giving up his own chance to shoot, Duke squared a ball into the path of the unmarked Tilio, who seemed certain to score from just outside the six-yard box.

However, the Melbourne City attacker was far too casual as he failed to even hit the target with his fluffed shot.

The All Whites’ hopes of finding the back of the net suffered a blow in the 32nd minute when star striker Chris Wood was forced off with a rib injury.

The 30-year-old marksman, who plies his trade for English Premier League club Newcastle United, had earlier come off second best in a heavy bump with Socceroos defender Thomas Deng, who was making just his second appearance for the national team and his first since his debut in 2018.

Wood tried to battle on but eventually succumbed to the injury, and was replaced by Wellington Phoenix youngster Ben Waine.

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