‘Susan’ Boyle shows Australia’s got talent
Scottish-born striker Martin Boyle starred in his first Socceroos start and helped Tim Cahill go out a winner, as Australia cruised to a 3-0 win over Lebanon in Sydney on Tuesday.
With coach Graham Arnold looking to finalise his squad for the Asian Cup finals in the United Arab Emirates in under two months' time, Boyle pressed his case in compelling fashion.
Boyle, whose father was born in Sydney, provided an assist for a last-gasp equaliser against South Korea last Saturday and bagged a first-half double at ANZ Stadium and an assist after the break.
While Cahill's international career came to an end, the most influential player on the night was Boyle, whose Socceroos journey has only just started.
His first in the 19th minute was a trifle fortunate, as his shot following an enterprising run deflected off Lebanon's Joan Oumari.
Boyle's second in the 41st minute was a simple two-metre tap in after Milos Degenek's header from an Aaron Mooy corner thudded against the crossbar.
Even before his first score, the 25-year-old Hibernian winger looked Australia's most likely source of a goal.
He had a fourth-minute shot saved by goalkeeper Mehdi Khalil and sent another attempt wide three minutes later, while Tomi Juric also went close a couple of times.
Boyle turned provider in the 68th minute when his right-wing cross was swept home emphatically by substitute Mathew Leckie, two minutes after coming on.
"I don't think I could have asked for a better game," Boyle said. "It felt natural, I just tried to focus on playing my own game like I do with my club.
"A lot of credit goes to Arnie - he said do your best .......don't try and do anything spectacular, just play your normal game and that's what I did."
Arnold revealed he spotted Boyle while visiting his Scottish club Hibernian to see Mark Milligan and Jamie Maclaren.
"We look all over the world for players. When I went to Hibs to see Mark and Jamie I spent a day there watching him train," Arnold said.
"It was a no-brainer, (to see) if I could convince him to play for Australia. To be honest I didn't have to work too hard to convince him, he was very keen to do it.
"He's fit into the group so well. He's a fantastic kid and it was a pretty special night last night when we presented him with his debut jersey, and he got it from Timmy. I just said to him, you may have to be number four now."
Anyone who was against the @Socceroos going out and getting Martin Boyle can go and swim with the Loch Ness monster. 🇦🇺🏴⚽️— Daniel Garb (@DanielGarb) November 20, 2018
Boyle was one of seven changes Arnold made to the side that started Saturday's game.
Sydney FC right back Grant became the 600th capped Socceroo when awarded his debut and Degenek was brought into the centre of defence.
Mustafa Amini and Jackson Irvine were called into the midfield and Boyle, Juric and Awer Mabil provided a new a strike force.
Jimmy Jeggo made his Socceroos debut off the bench late in the game.
Cahill won his 108th and final cap, coming on in the 82nd minute to the delight of many of the 33,268 patrons.
He was handed the captain's armband a few minutes later when leader for the night, Trent Sainsbury, was substituted.
Cahill couldn't score a 51st international goal, though on one occasion an inviting cross looked destined to find his head, before Lebanon defender Kassem Al Zein spoiled the moment by getting a glancing touch which flicked the ball away from the Socceroos veteran.
"I thought he misjudged it and I thought this is going to be a nice little tap in to the bottom left corner," Cahill said.
Australia dominated against a side ranked 82nd, 40 places below them in the world rankings.
"There's a lot of positives out of that but there's still so much more improvement," Arnold said. "There's a lot more to come, the movement is getting there."