2018 World Cup qualifier: Australia’s win over UAE ‘won’t mean anything’ without more points

Mark Milligan says Australia must build on their perfect start to the final stage of qualification for the 2018 World Cup or else their victory against the UAE will be rendered redundant.
Mark Milligan, left, in action against UAE midfielder Amer Abdulrahman during Australia's 1-0 victory in Abu Dhabi. Karim Sahib / AFP
Mark Milligan, left, in action against UAE midfielder Amer Abdulrahman during Australia's 1-0 victory in Abu Dhabi. Karim Sahib / AFP

ABU DHABI // Mark Milligan says Australia must build on their perfect start to the final stage of qualification for the 2018 World Cup or else their victory against the UAE will be rendered redundant.

The midfielder, who represents Arabian Gulf League side Baniyas, captained Australia to a 1-0 win at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium on Tuesday night, when substitute Tim Cahill’s late goal decided the match.

The triumph came soon after last week’s 2-0 home victory against Iraq, giving Australia six points from their opening two Group B fixtures as they look to qualify for a fourth successive World Cup.

However, Milligan warned his teammates that there remains much to do if they are to clinch one of the top two spots that guarantee a spot at Russia 2018. Australia, who head the standings, next face second-placed Saudi Arabia in Jeddah on October 6 before hosting fellow continental heavyweights Japan five days later.

More from UAE v Australia:

• Paul Radley: UAE’s road to Russia 2018 hits a dent, but the dream is far from over

• Reaction: Mahdi Ali insists UAE World Cup dream is still alive: ‘We lost one match’

• Gallery: UAE’s road to Russia 2018 hits a Tim Cahill-shaped roadblock as Australia win

“We came here for three points, we didn’t come for anything less, and that’s what we did,” Milligan said. “It’s been a long time since we won a game in the Middle East — I think four years — so this was very important for us.

“We’ve another tough test against Saudi Arabia and Japan, but we know if we don’t play well in the next games then this result won’t mean anything. We knew this group wasn’t going to be easy and we knew we had to start well. It is early, but it’s going to be very tight — we thought that from the very beginning. So part one’s done and we move on to the next.”

Australia deserved the win in Abu Dhabi, with the visitors restricting the UAE to few chances throughout. The home side arrived for the match on the back of last Thursday’s shock opening victory in Japan, but could not create enough to add to the three points gleaned from Saitama.

Milligan, though, says a first win for Australia in the region in three attempts — they triumphed in only two of their previous eight matches in the Middle East — provides the team with a great platform to build towards a fifth World Cup appearance.

“Yeah it does. We’ll take a lot of confidence,” he said. “It was well documented before this game that our results over the past few years in the Middle East have been far from brilliant, so it was important for us to get a win.

“They’re a good side, they came in off a lot of confidence after beating Japan. So to beat them at home and to take the points is a good coup for us.”

Asked if the victory ensured his return to Baniyas for the new domestic season became a little more difficult, Milligan joked: “It actually makes it easier. It would’ve been a lot harder going back there if we had have lost.”

Meanwhile, teammate Cahill, who scored his 48th international goal to extend his run as Australia’s all-time leading goalscorer, could be seen consoling the UAE players directly after the final whistle.

“The UAE played really well, we’ve a lot of respect for them, a great footballing team,” he said. “I said to the players: ‘put your head up, try as finish as high as you can in the group and take what you did against Japan and today and improve like you have every year’.”

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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Published: September 7, 2016 04:00 AM

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