The Olyroos have made a strong start to their three-game tour of China, downing their host nation 5-1 at the Chongqing City Dazu District Sports Centre Stadium on Friday night.
First-half strikes to Daniel Bouman, Jacob Italiano, Al Hassan Toure combined with second-half goals to Ramy Najjarine and Ben Folami to propel Australia past the Chinese; whose sole goal was delivered just prior to halftime by Zhang Yuning.
Young Socceroos coach Gary van Egmond is caretaker coach for these Olyroos games with dual Socceroos/Olyroos head coach Graham Arnold travelling to China simply to observe the squad.
Australia’s thoughts will now turn to a matchup with North Korea on Sunday evening and a clash with Lithuania on Tuesday night.
Progression to the Olyroos' ultimate goal – qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics – will be decided next January, when they compete in the 2020 AFC U23 Championships in Thailand.
The top three teams at that tournament – Japan having already qualified for the Olympics as hosts – will progress to Tokyo.
The preparatory, three-match tour of China got off to a strong start on Friday evening when after 20 minutes Bouman – who plays with top of the Dutch second-division side SC Cambuur – hurled himself at a looping free-kick to the back post by Panathinaikos’ Panos Armenakas and bundled a header over the line to make it 1-0.
Armenakas almost doubled up the Australian advantage when, seizing a yard of space outside the Chinese penalty area, he flashed a shot just wide in the 24th minute.
The lead, however, was 2-0 on the half an hour mark when former Perth Glory and now Borussia Mönchengladbach phenomenon Italiano seized on a turnover forced by Bouman deep in China’s half and, first time, perfectly curled a right-footed effort inside the post.
Just moments later it was 3-0 when debutant Toure produced a splendid piece of solo skill after a Loose China pass found him in space before twisting his marker inside out to open up an angle and fire home from range.
The hosts got one back just before the halftime whistle when a long ball over the top caught captain Thomas Deng on his heels and allowed Yuning – who recently returned to Beijing Guoan after stints with Vitesse, West Brom and ADO Den Haag – to nip round goalkeeper Jordan Holmes and slide the ball into an empty net.
Nonetheless, Australia was able to absorb the blow and continue to add goals in the second half; Najjarine getting free at the back post to receive a cross and make it 4-1 in the 63rd minute before laying a pass off to Folami in the 86th minute that enabled the Ipswich Town man to duck and weave around defenders on the edge of the area before making it five.
A sour note came in the 88th minute when Dylan Ryan received his marching orders after his second yellow card, but it proved a relatively lonely blemish on an otherwise promising night for Australia’s U23s.