Melbourne City again had multiple representatives involved in Socceroos duty overnight, with Connor Metcalfe, Jamie Maclaren and new signing Mathew Leckie all featuring in Australia’s 3-0 win over Nepal.
Connor Metcalfe was thoroughly impressive on his starting debut for the national team, named as a holding midfielder alongside Jackson Irvine in Graham Arnold’s 4-2-2-2 formation. In this role, both Metcalfe and Irvine saw plenty of possession by either dropping deep to collect the ball from the centre-backs or by filling the space vacated by the attacking fullbacks who would bomb high up the field. Metcalfe’s performance was embodied by his metronomic, simple passing (66 at 91% accuracy) that helped Australia to maintain the lion’s share of possession, whilst the youngster also used his height and physicality to win aerial duels in midfield. Metcalfe nearly had his first Socceroos goal in the 90th minute when he struck from the edge of the area, but the powered shot was well-saved by Kiran Chemjong in goal.
Despite Arnold’s two-striker formation, Jamie Maclaren didn’t feature from the start like his Melbourne City teammate Metcalfe, instead taking to the pitch at the 62nd minute when he replaced Mitch Duke as one of Australia’s front two. As was the case against Chinese Taipei, Maclaren struggled to make an impact, with no significant chances falling his way in his 31 on-pitch minutes, other than a well-struck free-kick that dipped narrowly over the crossbar.
He’s been left til last due to not being a part of our current squad, but recent recruit Mathew Leckie was the pick of the bunch in regards to the Melbourne City representatives who featured, with the 30-year-old nabbing a goal and an assist in his 62 minutes of play. Australia’s skipper for the night, Leckie started the game as Duke’s strike-partner and took just six minutes to make an impact. His future City teammate Metcalfe was able to win a crucial header in midfield that allowed the ball to be distributed to Aziz Behich on the left, with Leckie rising to meet the fullback’s eventual cross with an accurate, powered header to beat Chemjong in goal. Leckie made things look easy in the 38th as he skipped past a challenge to drive wide into the box, cutting back to Fran Karačić for the simple finish into the bottom left. Leckie now has four goals and one assist in this round of qualifying.