Socceroos thrash Nepal to continue dream start on qualifying road to 2022 World Cup

Dinesh Rajbanshi fights for possession with Jamie Maclaren. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
Dinesh Rajbanshi fights for possession with Jamie Maclaren. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
Aziz Behich celebrates with Jamie Maclaren after the striker completed his hat-trick. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Aziz Behich celebrates with Jamie Maclaren after the striker completed his hat-trick. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

A Scottish giant and a Jamie Maclaren hat-trick gave Australia the perfect start in the nation's capital as the Socceroos look to qualify for their fifth consecutive FIFA World Cup.

The Socceroos continued to run riot on their road to Qatar 2022 with a 5-0 thrashing of Nepal in front of 18,563 fans at Canberra Stadium on Thursday night.

Canberrans flung up their hands and performed an impromptu Viking Clap as the Socceroos dominated from start to finish.

It took just six minutes for the Socceroos to break the deadlock when Craig Goodwin fired a ricochet off a set piece, for Jamie Maclaren to ease the ball past Nepalese goalkeeper Kiran Kumar Limbu.

Australia doubled its lead in the 19th minute when defender Rhyan Grant headed the ball across the face of goal for Maclaren to nod it home with a tidy finish.

Sujal Shreshtha attempts to intercept Aaron Mooy (above) while (below) more than 18,000 fans packed Canberra Stadium. Pictures: Dion Georgopoulos

Sujal Shreshtha attempts to intercept Aaron Mooy (above) while (below) more than 18,000 fans packed Canberra Stadium. Pictures: Dion Georgopoulos

Scottish diaspora Harry Souttar helped Australia put the result beyond doubt on his international debut in the 24th minute when he used his six-foot-six frame to head the ball into the back of the net from a Goodwin corner.

It was the fastest goal on Socceroos debut since teammate Aaron Mooy scored a 14th minute goal score against Guam in 2012.

Nepal struggled to gain possession in their attacking half as the Socceroos' defence ran riot around the tourists, who could barely get consecutive passes away.

More than 18,000 fans packed Canberra Stadium. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

More than 18,000 fans packed Canberra Stadium. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

But Nepalese fans spurred on their players with roars of approval at the slightest hint of an attacking charge.

Australian fans were then brought to their feet as Mathew Leckie's shot deflected into the goal in the final minute of the first half. But the linesman's flag went up and the Socceroos were denied a chance to extend their lead going into the break.

The Nepalese frantically fought back and tried to force themselves back into the game after the break but they simply couldn't surpass the Socceroos' relentless defence.

The hosts extended their lead to four goals in the 58th minute when Souttar headed the ball towards the net off an Aaron Mooy header.

The contested ball deflected off a Nepalese defender and went down on the score-sheet as an own goal.

But the Socceroos struggled to fly through the gears and wasted plenty of attacking opportunities in the final third as the clock ticked closer to full-time.

Maclaren became the first Australian to score a hat-trick in two years when he bagged his third in the 90th minute.

Milligan struck a long ball with Jackson Irvine as the forward target and the midfielder bounced the ball off his chest for Maclaren to complete the attack with a tidy finish.

The victory comes after the Socceroos won their qualifying opener against Kuwait 3-0 in sweltering conditions last month.

They'll look to continue their perfect start to their qualifying campaign when they face Chinese Taipei in Kaohsiung on Tuesday.

Australia need to finish as one of the eight group winners or four best runners-up in the Asian Football Confederation to advance directly to the 2023 Asian Cup finals and the next qualifying round for the 2022 World Cup.

The Socceroos endured one of the longest and most gruelling campaigns in the tournament's history when they played 22 games over a 29-month period to qualify for Russia.

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold said: "We have a lot of work to do ... we created plenty of chances but we have to be more ruthless when it counts."

This story Australia thrash Nepal to continue impressive start to qualifying bid first appeared on The Canberra Times.