Socceroos hold off fast-finishing Saudis

Central defender Bailey Wright scored on debut as the Socceroos ended a seven-match winless streak to defeat Saudi Arabia 3-2 in London on Tuesday morning (AEST).

First half goals to Tim Cahill and skipper Mile Jedinak put the Australians two-up within the first seven minutes.

But another rush of blood by goalkeeper Mitch Langerak - who was left exposed by his defence - saw him concede a second-half penalty when he cleaned up a player inside the box.

The Green Falcon's Hassan Muath Fallatah converted and the Saudis seemed to lift a gear.

Wright restored the two-goal buffer on 77 minutes with a close range strike before an 84 minute left-footed shot by Taiseer Al-Jassam set up a grandstand finish.


Coach Ange Postecoglou made four changes to the side that was comfortably beaten by Belgium last week.

Langerak - whose last outing in London ended in a send-off - came into the line-up along with Massimo Luongo in his maiden start, Josh Brillante and Wright.

While regular starters, Mark Bresciano, Mark Milligan and Mat Ryan sat on the bench.

Alex Wilkinson's injury substitution on five minutes opened the door for Trent Sainsbury to make his second start for the national team - leaving Australia's central defensive pairing with just three caps between them.

After a shaky start where they conceded two free-kicks in as many minutes, Australia hit the front with their first attack, Cahill spreading the play on the counter-attack to Tommy Oar to start the move.

Oar found Mathew Leckie in the box but the FC Ingolstadt forward couldn't score and neither could Luongo before Cahill bundled the ball into the net from less than a metre.

It was 2-0 just four minutes later with Jedinak rising unmarked to nod Brillante's free-kick home less than a minute after Wilkinson left the pitch with a strained gluteal muscle.

While the scoreboard looked promising, the performance was less so, with the Socceroos struggling to hold onto the ball early and failing to find new routes to goal.

Cahill's goal was his seventh in the Postecoglou era, while Jedinak was maintaining his record as the only other player to have scored in green and gold under the former Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory coach.

Sloppy passes, particularly in Australia's defensive half, allowed Saudi Arabia back into the match.

Sainsbury and Jedinak were arguably the main culprits, while the Socceroos struggled for cohesion among the front four of Oar, Leckie, Cahill and Luongo, although the latter again showed he has a bright future with some impressive moments.

Postecoglou's men started the second half brightly but should have conceded in the 49th minute, only for the unmarked Yasir Al Shahrani to spray his shot wide from the edge of the six-yard box.

The Socceroos looked much more poised in possession up until the hour mark, with their best move seeing Leckie chip to a surging Luongo, who could not keep his header down.

Saudi Arabia got back into the contest in the 70th minute with Langerak conceding a penalty on Mukhtar Fallatah, after the ball fell fortuitously to the substitute forward.

Langerak was lucky to stay on the pitch before Muath converted from the spot and suddenly the 83rd-ranked Saudis looked inspired.

The Socceroos restored their two-goal cushion just seven minutes later when Wright scored, after Saudi Arabia failed to clear an Australian set-piece, but the Gulf nation returned fire soon after. Al Shahrani teeing up Al Jassim, who took advantage of some lax marking.

Australia held on, however, claiming just their second victory under Postecoglou's reign with just over three months until the Asian Cup.