MELAKA (6 October 2017) – A late penalty from Omar Al Soma earned Syria a 1-1 draw against Australia in the first leg of their FIFA World Cup 2018 Continental Play-off at Hang Jebat Stadium on Thursday.
Australia started the brighter of the two sides in humid conditions and almost took an early lead with midfielder Mark Milligan’s effort forcing a fine save from Syrian goalkeeper Ibrahim Alma.
The Socceroos then opened the scoring five minutes before half time when Mathew Leckie got in behind the Syrian defence, cutting back and firing in a shot-cum-cross with his left foot that was turned in by Robbie Kruse for his first goal for Australia since the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.
After the break, Tomi Juric was unlucky to see his shot come back off the woodwork – and even unluckier when, bizarrely, he crashed the rebound off the same post.
Syria then began to take control.
Omar Kharbin had a shot blocked by Leckie, before Al Soma headed a good chance over and was then denied an almost certain goal by Milos Degenek’s last-ditch lunge.
Syrian talisman Al Soma was a constant threat and converted from the penalty spot when the referee adjudged Leckie to have fouled the Al Ahli striker in the box.
In the dying moments, Trent Sainsbury had a close-range header saved and Australia goalkeeper Mat Ryan clawed away a Moayad Al Ajan shot.
With the tie locked at 1-1, the two teams will now head to Sydney for the second leg at Stadium Australia on Tuesday, with the winners set to advance to a meeting with the fourth-ranked side from CONCACAF in the Inter-Continental Play-off.