Arnold laments unsafe pitch as Socceroos switch focus

Anna Harrington |

Kusini Yengi scored but was unimpressed with the Dhaka pitch for Australia’s match with Bangladesh.
Kusini Yengi scored but was unimpressed with the Dhaka pitch for Australia’s match with Bangladesh.

Coach Graham Arnold will hope the Socceroos emerge from playing on a “dangerous” pitch in Bangladesh unscathed ahead of a tight turnaround to their World Cup qualifier against Palestine in Perth.

But he will take heart from striker Kusini Yengi seizing his moment as he presses his case to lead the line full-time.

The Socceroos scrapped out a 2-0 win over Bangladesh in sweltering conditions on a shabby, waterlogged pitch at the Bashundhara Kings Arena on Thursday.

“The pitch? Terrible. It’s unacceptable,” Arnold said. 

Bangladesh v Australia
The pitch for Australia’s game at Bashundhara Kings Arena in Dhaka, Bangladesh, cut up badly. (AP PHOTO)

“Because we talk about player welfare. And you’re putting players on a field that players can get injured. 

“And it’s no shock to me that five or six players from Bangladesh went down with cramping, having cramps in calf muscles and hamstrings because that field is not good. I’m being honest … the field was dangerous.

“I’m not passing responsibility. That was a field that we only won 2-0, we had the chances to score five, six, seven. 

“But some of the tackles, potential injuries was stressing me out last night.”

Yengi didn’t hold back.

“The grass is too long, there’s too much water, it’s too muddy, it’s patchy, the ball holds up, it’s a really soft surface,” he said.

“So, when we’re running for the ball, when both teams are contesting for the ball, it’s easy to slip and accidentally tackle someone, which you saw plenty of times out here. 

“When it’s a soft pitch, your muscles have to work a lot harder and that’s the reason why you see so many people go down with cramps and things like that. 

“So the surface is dangerous, not (just) for us, but for everyone and it’s difficult to play the ball on.”

Ajdin Hrustic’s deflected long-range strike, later ruled an own goal, in the 29th minute and Yengi’s header in the 62nd proved the difference.

Portsmouth striker Yengi’s goal – where the 25-year-old leapt and contorted his body to nod home a quality cross from Jordy Bos – underlined his quality.

“He’s the first to say that he hasn’t played for a good six weeks after Portsmouth won the league,” Arnold said.

“So he’s a little bit probably rusty and obviously the fitness levels weren’t as high as they normally are. 

“But look, overall, it was a good game to get him started back into and I’m very happy with him.”

The Socceroos were due to fly to Perth overnight ahead of Tuesday night’s game, when changes are on the cards – including starts for local centre-backs Alessandro Circati and Cameron Burgess.

They are confident Hrustic has avoided injury after he hobbled off early in the second half following two physical challenges.

World No.24 Australia are top of group I and into the next round of qualifying.

But if they win against Palestine, and world No.23 South Korea lose or draw against China, they could leapfrog South Korea in the rankings and ensure better seeding for the next draw.

Palestine played Lebanon at 2am AEST Friday in Doha, Qatar.