Cahill brace keeps Socceroos alive in World Cup qualification race

Scott Pryde Roar Guru

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    A pair of goals from Tim Cahill – one in the 13th minute as an equaliser, the other in extra time, the 109th – has kept the Socceroos’ hopes of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup alive.

    Australia will advance to the inter-confederation play-off in November, but it was far from easy.

    Despite having 25 shots, with 11 of them on goal, it took an extra time cracker from Cahill to bring them the win. They seemed to be a step slow in their passing all game, while Syria were happy to have eight or nine back on defence.

    Omar Al-Soma gave Syria the first goal in the sixth minute, but the visitors weren’t able to add another. Their defensive mindset was part of the problem, but at 1-all, they had the chance to get the match to penalties.

    It seemed that was their plan – to frustrate the Aussies and launch counter attacks, which was how the big striker Al-Soma got them on the scoreboard.

    Cahill’s first goal came off a superb header in the penalty area off a well-delivered cross, with no more scoring for the remainder of regulation time, as Australia were continually frustrated by Syria’s tactics.

    Matthew Leckie and Mark Milligan both picked up yellow cards though, which will rule them out of the first leg of the inter-confederation play-off.

    Just four minutes into extra time, the game was flipped on its head by Mahmoud Al Mawas being shown a second yellow card. It reduced a fatigued Syria to ten men, but Australia struggled to find any rhythm. Their attacking moves were broken down as the visitors continued to defend and counter.

    Their defensive luck ran out on the other side of the extra-time break though. Aaron Mooy put a cross in, and Cahill put another header into the corner of the net, just getting past the outstretched Ibrahim Alma.

    Australia managed to defend their lines, somewhat shakily for the next eight minutes, but gave away a free kick right on the 120-minute mark. Al-Soma stepped up, looking to send Syria to the World Cup on away goals, but hit the post, with the Socceroos holding out for the remaining two minutes of injury time.

    The Aussies will find out at 11am (AEDT) on Wednesday which of the United States of America, Panama or Honduras they will play in a final, do-or-die, two-leg decider in November.

    The USA, playing Trinidad and Tobago, are favourites to receive the remaining direct qualification spot alongside Costa Rica and Mexico.

    Panama are currently sitting in the pivotal fourth position, but only because they have a goal difference advantage over Honduras. Panama will face Costa Rica, while Honduras face Mexico, with both at home.

    Scott Pryde
    Scott Pryde

    One of the mainstays of The Roar, Scott Pryde has written over 1,100 articles covering everything from rugby league to basketball, from tennis to cricket. You can follow him on Twitter @sk_pryde.