Mat Ryan with trophy.
Socceroos skipper Mat Ryan celebrates after the 2-0 friendly win over New Zealand in London. Image by AP PHOTO
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Duke, Irvine goals down Kiwis to keep Soccer Ashes

Glenn Moore October 18, 2023

Australia’s soccer players have followed their cricketing counterparts by defending the Ashes in London, albeit they have done so with a victory, defeating New Zealand 2-0.

The win ensured Australia keep the century-old Anzac Soccer Ashes trophy, which was recently uncovered in a Queensland garage having been missing since the mid-50s.

Victory also snapped a four-match losing streak and set up Graham Arnold’s men for next month’s 2026 World Cup qualifiers against Bangladesh and Palestine.

Mitchell Duke scored the first goal, though Harry Souttar was initially credited with it after Duke’s 14th-minute shot appeared to brush the Leicester City defender’s chest on the way in.

There was no doubting the identity of the second scorer, Jackson Irvine rising at the far post to head in Martin Boyle’s 76th-minute corner.

There could have been more, with substitutes Ryan Strain and Brandon Borello missing excellent chances while New Zealand rarely threatened Mat Ryan’s goal.

“If it was another night we could have had five or six and we should have,” Arnold said.

“We dominated the game and when we come up against the smaller nations in Asia we have to be more brutal when it comes to those chances, but overall it’s been a fantastic six months. A great earning process for a lot of the boys.”

The Socceroos were on top for most of the match with Keanu Baccus and the recalled Massimo Luongo controlling central midfield. 

It was Luongo’s first game since 2019 and Arnold said of the Ipswich Town midfielder: “He did very well. If you have younger players it’s important you have experienced ones. You need to have good senior leaders on the pitch and he helped out a lot.”

Michael Boxall and Australia's Massimo Luongo.
 Massimo Luongo (r) played his first game for the Socceroos in four years against New Zealand. Image by AP PHOTO 

A crowd of 5761 had been drawn to Premier League Brentford’s ground, where the Matildas beat England’s women earlier this year, despite the competing attraction of England’s men playing Italy at Wembley Stadium.

They saw a reshaped Socceroos team with Graham Arnold making a quintet of changes from the XI that lost narrowly to England. He handed a debut to 20-year-old Parma defender Alessandro Circati and a first start to Hibernian’s Lewis Miller.

The new boys were given an early confidence boost when they combined to set up Souttar’s goal.

A set-piece was kept alive enabling Miller’s crossing expertise to come into play. At the back post Circati headed the ball down for Duke to volley in his 10th international goal from close range.

Souttar tried to claim the goal for his eighth in Australian colours, but after the match English referee Stuart Atwell confirmed it was Duke’s.

Mitchell Duke.
 Mitchell Duke’s (l) first-half strike opened the scoring in a Socceroos win over the All Whites. Image by AP PHOTO 

Woud then dived full-length to turn aside a Jordan Bos drive before Boyle was flagged offside as he stabbed in a Bos cross.

In the second period Boyle brought another good save from Woud after he was released by Metcalfe. That could have been costly as a 64th-minute Bill Tuiloma free kick struck the bar.

But any thoughts of a Kiwi comeback were dashed as Irvine settled the contest.

With the century-old wooden trophy too fragile to travel, Ryan was presented with a silver cup. There are plans for a replica to be produced for future contests.