Syria salvaged an improbable 1-1 draw with Australia in the first leg of their qualifying playoff to keep their World Cup dream alive, but the Socceroos are still in control of this tie having scored a vital away goal ahead of the return leg in Sydney on Tuesday, October 10.
Robbie Kruse gave Australia the lead in the 40th minute, and it was a deserved breakthrough for the visitors. Syria struggled to break out of their defensive block, and Australia finally turned all of their possession into a goal after some good work from Mathew Leckie on the right. His drive toward the far post was turned home by Kruse, and it looked as though Australia were going to build a comfortable cushion to bring back to Sydney.
However, after Tomi Juric failed to double Australia’s advantage early in the second half, Syria began to grow into the match. The home side came close to grabbing an equalizer on a number of occasions before finally breaking Australia’s resolve from the spot.
The penalty call was certainly contentious with Leckie clearing a dangerous cross into the Socceroos’ box, but the ref spotting a slight shove on Omar Al Somah and immediately pointed to the spot.
With Syria’s World Cup hopes likely in the balance, Al Somah calmly dispatched his penalty with authority.
The return leg is scheduled for Tuesday at Stadium Australia in Sydney. The winner, of course, will advance to play the fourth place finisher from CONCACAF’s Hexagonal round in a home-and-away playoff for a ticket to Russia.