Tim Cahill heads Australia into World Cup playoff

Syria’s fairy tale looked like continuing when Omar Al Soma struck the opener early on

Tim Cahill of Australia heads home the winning goal in Sydney. Photograph: Getty Images

Tim Cahill of Australia heads home the winning goal in Sydney. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Australia 2 Syria 1 (AET - Australia win 3-2 on aggregate)

Syria’s dreams of a World Cup debut were dashed by Tim Cahill’s aerial prowess as Australia’s record goalscorer converted an extra-time header — his second of the match — to put his side into a play-off.

The Melbourne City midfielder’s 50th international goal came in the 109th minute to finally break the resilience of their opponents, who were reduced to 10 men in the first additional period.

Syria’s fairy tale looked like continuing when Omar Al Soma struck in only the sixth minute to give the war-torn nation a 2-1 aggregate lead at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney.

But Cahill soon equalised with a trademark header and, despite some resilient defending, he scored the winner with 11 minutes to go to book their place in the intercontinental play-off against the fourth-placed CONCACAF side, which will be either Panama or Honduras.

Syria, gripped by civil war for six years, were missing five key players but that did not seem to impede their start as they went ahead when Tamer Mohamd dispossessed Mark Milligan to counter-attack and set up Al Soma to shoot high past Maty Ryan.

It was their one bright spot in a half of almost total domination by the hosts, who although enjoying 80 per cent possession could not capitalise.

The introduction of Huddersfield midfielder Aaron Mooy, surprisingly left out of the team, after just 11 minutes because of injury to Bournemouth defender Brad Smith prompted a change in formation but led to almost one-way traffic.

Matthew Leckie, whose inviting right-wing cross was converted by Cahill, saw a close-range effort on the half-hour blocked by Zaher Medane as Syria’s defence held on.

Early in the second half Leckie powered a header wide before Ibrahim Alma saved well at his left-hand post to deny Celtic midfielder Tom Rogic, whose deflected shot wide in the 90th minute was their last chance before extra-time.

Syria continued to hang on — their task was made more difficult by the dismissal of Mahmoud Al Mawas for a second yellow card — and Alma brilliantly tipped over Nikita Rukavytsya’s near-post volley at the end of the first period.

But despite getting his hand to the ball, the goalkeeper could not keep out Cahill’s second header in the 109th minute.

There was still time for one dramatic twist when Al Soma lined up a 30-yard free-kick in added time but his shot crashed against the post with the goalkeeper beaten.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.