Football: Defending Asian Cup champs Australia downed by underdogs Jordan

Jordan's Anas Bani-Yaseen celebrating after scoring against Australia during the AFC Asian Cup match in Al Ain, UAE, on Jan 6, 2019.
Jordan's Anas Bani-Yaseen celebrating after scoring against Australia during the AFC Asian Cup match in Al Ain, UAE, on Jan 6, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

AL AIN (AFP) - Defending champions Australia made their worst ever start to an Asian Cup on Sunday (Jan 6) when they lost 1-0 to Jordan in front of a partisan crowd in Al-Ain.

Graham Arnold's youthful side had expected victory in their Group B opener but they were undone by Anas Bani-Yaseen's powerful first-half header from a corner.

It leaves the injury-hit Aussies with much to ponder ahead of Friday's game against Palestine, when they will need a win to get their title defence on track.

Australia started confidently but their Brighton goalkeeper Mat Ryan made the first save when he kept out Yousef Rawashdeh at his near post after a mistake by Massimo Luongo.

Shortly afterwards, Australia's former South Sudanese refugee Awer Mabil, in his first competitive international, nearly opened the scoring but his close-range shot was blocked by Amir Shafi.

The youthful Socceroos had more than 70 per cent of first-half possession but rarely threatened, while Jordan were intent on harassing in midfield and seeking chances on the break.

Their goal came from a corner on 26 minutes, when defender Bani-Yaseen escaped Luongo's marking and powered his header into the top corner, prompting jubilation in the strongly pro-Jordan crowd of just under 5,000.

Suddenly Australia were rocking and three minutes later, they were grateful for Ryan's finger-tip save as he pushed Baha Abdelrahman's free kick onto the bar.

In the second half, Arnold brought on Rhyan Grant and then Chris Ikonomidis to find a way through Jordan's defence.

Celtic forward Tom Rogic's stinging shot was kept out by Shafi, before Ikonomidis's attempt at a follow-up was smothered by the defence.

Rogic passed up a golden opportunity for the equaliser on 72 minutes, when he was free in the box but scooped his shot well over from Aziz Behich's cross.

Six minutes later, the lively Mabil smashed one off the upright with Shafi beaten, before Ikonomidis's header was scrambled off the line.

With three minutes to go, Jamie Maclaren had a goal chalked off for offside and. with the last action of the game, Shafi pulled off a superb double save to deny Ikonomidis and Jackson Irvine, capping a desperately disappointing day for the Aussies and a joyful one for the Jordanians.