Syria keep World Cup dream alive after late penalty equalizer against Australia

Syria keep World Cup dream alive after late penalty equalizer against Australia

Syria keep World Cup dream alive after late penalty equalizer against Australia

Australia fronts up to a pressure test in the World Cup qualifying Asian play-off against Syria, needing an aggregate win over two legs to advance to another two-legged play-off, this time against North America's fourth placed team in November.

Australia are still in pole position to qualify for the next round - an intercontinental play-off against the fourth-placed CONCACAF nation, which is now the United States. Kruse tapped home from close range, his first goal for the Socceroos since January 2015.

But Syria leveled from the spot on 85 minutes through Omar Al Somah, who threatrically went down after contact from Leckie when dealing with a cross.

Syria will remain underdogs going into Tuesday's return leg against Australia in Sydney, and the winners of that game still need to negotiate an intercontinental playoff against a team from the CONCACAF qualifying groups.

The Syrians rallied in the second half, with al-Soma and Omar Khribin creating opportunities.

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"We were a bit unlucky. I don't know", Australia's stand-in captain Mark Milligan said.

Not long into in the second half, Australia almost doubled their lead, however Tomi Juric twice hit the post in quick succession.

A speedy burst from Khatib and a header from al-Soma forced a reflex save from Mat Ryan in the 78th and the Australia goalkeeper tipped a hard shot from Moayad Ajan over the bar in injury time to preserve the draw, only moments after Alma made a game-saving stop for Syria at the other end.

The Syrians pushed and pushed, and if not for key blocks on three occasions - from Leckie, Milos Degenek and Aziz Behich - the result could have been so much different for an Australian team that should have had the result beyond any doubt before Syria's comeback was allowed to happen. Soma also scored the late leveler against Iran that got Syria to this point.

The draw on Tuesday extended Syria's unbeaten run at its adopted Malaysian home to seven matches.

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