Socceroo reveals special coincidence behind ‘perfect’ first goal – but did he mean it?

Adam Taggart credits hometown club comforts for his return to the Socceroos

The Socceroos survived a late push from Lebanon to seal a 2-0 win at CommBank Stadium on Thursday night, and take another step forward along the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying journey.

Australia pulled seven points clear of Lebanon as comfortable Group I leaders in the second phase of World Cup qualifying in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), with goals to Keanu Baccus and Kye Rowles on either side of half-time setting the tone for the win in front of more than 27,000 fans.

Both Baccus and Rowles – a pair of A-Leagues products – scored their very first Socceroos goals on the night.

Baccus’ fifth-minute strike was particularly special for a player who spent six seasons at Western Sydney Wanderers in the Isuzu UTE A-League, returning to his former club’s home ground to bag his first goal in green and gold.

Perth Glory striker Adam Taggart played from the start in his first appearance since 2022 on a night soured by first-half injuries to both Riley McGree and Jordy Bos.

The Socceroos now lead Group I in second-round AFC World Cup qualifying on nine points. Lebanon has two points from three games, with both Palestine and Bangladesh taking one point apiece from two games so far.

Baccus got the ball rolling with just five minutes on the clock – and the dubious goals panel will be debating long into the night whether or not the midfielder meant to score.

In truth, his first Socceroos goal was almost certainly a cross; after winning the ball high up the park, Baccus dribbled wide toward the edge of the penalty area and whipped the ball into the top-left corner, rattling the opposite post and then the back of the net.

Baccus, a Western Sydney Wanderers product, spent six seasons at the club before making his move abroad and the scene of his last A-Leagues goal in March, 2022 became the setting for his very first Socceroos strike.

Baccus’ moment in the spotlight was made all the more special by the proximity to his family as the ball rippled the net; he chose not only his former home ground, but same location at CommBank Stadium where his family watched on from the stands.

“When the game started we were going to go this way and I thought: ‘If I can get one, my family will be right here to celebrate with them’,” Baccus told Network 10, as he stood with his parents pitchside post-game.

“It ended up being perfect, I ended up celebrating them and I couldn’t be more happy.”

But as for whether or not he meant to shoot, or cross…

“I’ll take it. I’ll take it regardless of the answer!” He said.

“At least it went in clean, no deflection so I’ll take it.”

Former Socceroo Luke Wilkshire said Baccus’ maiden Socceroos goal was just reward for a player who does it all for the national side.

“He has made it (that position) his own,” Wilkshire said post-game.

“He’s a battler in midfield. He holds the midfield well, he wins balls, he keeps us ticking over. You need that one that’s going to hold and he allows the rest to go and flourish.

“His work rate is second to none. He’s good at picking up balls like this and now he’s adding goals to his game – whether he means it or not!”

Baccus picked up his second yellow card of the qualification campaign to date later in the game, which earned him a suspension for Tuesday’s meeting with Lebanon in Canberra.

Socceroos boss Graham Arnold was dealt a double injury blow after Baccus’ opener, with Riley McGree the first to go down in the first half.

The Middlesbrough attacker suffered a foot injury and was replaced by Jordy Bos but before long, the former Melbourne City youngster had a concern of his own.

Bos lasted less than 30 minutes before suffering a knee injury. Arnold brought Ajdin Hrustic off the bench to take the substitute’s place shortly before half-time.

Jordy Bos.

Perth Glory striker Adam Taggart has 15 Isuzu UTE A-League goals to his name this season and as the league’s joint-top scorer, earned his way back into the Socceroos squad for the first time since 2022.

Taggart was rewarded with a start against Lebanon and was denied a goal after half-time by a Mostafa Matar save and the offside flag.

Baccus scored his very first Socceroos goal to put the hosts in front and Rowles followed suit in the second half, sliced off his left foot on the half volley, off the post and in from a corner routine.

The former Central Coast Mariners youngster won back-to-back Mariners Medals at the A-Leagues club before his departure to Scottish club Heart of Midlothian in 2022, and his international career has flourished ever since.

The Socceroos were cruising to full-time until a pair of errors at the back from Cameron Burgess opened the door for Lebanon to attack – and Daniel Kuri went agonisingly close to scoring the national side’s first goal against Australia in their history.

Kuri had Maty Ryan beaten at his near post but the ball cannoned off the woodwork and away in a big let-off for the home side.

The visitors had two more late chances sparked by a free-kick on the edge of the box but neither Kuri or Karim Darwich could capitalise as Australia wrapped up a 2-0 win.