Veteran Tim Cahill bailed out the Socceroos to book a place in the final play-offs for a spot in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
With the equaliser and a winner in extra-time, Tim Cahill further cemented his place in the annals of Australia’s footballing lore as he pushed the Socceroos through to the final stage of the play-offs for a place in the 2018 World Cup Finals in Russia – virtually single-handedly.
Syria had done well last week to neutralise the Aussies and force a draw through a controversial penalty. However, they couldn’t manage to find a winner at the ANZ Stadium on Tuesday as Cahill finally ended an extraordinary run for the crisis-ridden nation.
The nation was watching at Umayyad Square in Damascus as Syria were knocked out of World Cup qualifying by Australia. pic.twitter.com/8xvz0BxKkP
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) October 10, 2017
That Syria have even made it this far – pushing one of the regional favourites to the brink of elimination – is quite the miracle in itself given the situation back at home. But they’ve acquitted themselves handsomely even through defeat, drawing proceeding out into extra-time before finally succumbing.
Australia had to work hard to stay alive in the return leg, despite the away goal from the draw. Omar Al Somah struck again, this time as early as the 6th minute to deliver a rude wake-up call. But fortunately for the Socceroos, Tim Cahill pulled them level almost immediately with a nice header off Leckie’s cross.
Australia looked more threatening than they were on Thursday. But Syria did very well to absorb the pressure with some disciplined defending and fine keeping by Ibrahim Alma. However, having made it to extra-time, they were down to 10 men within minutes as Al Maowas was sent off.
With that, they eventually broke down as Cahill popped up again to deliver a game-winning header in the 109th and end the Syrians’ dream run. Australia will now hope for an easier time of it in their inter-continental playoff with the fourth-placed side from CONCACAF.
— #WCQ ⚽️? (@FIFAWorldCup) October 10, 2017
Aussies grit it out after the frustrating first leg draw on Thursday
Syria gave the Socceroos a real shock in the opening minutes when a loose pass allowed Tamer Haj Mohamad to play in Al Somah, who duly converted past Mathew Ryan. Not even ten minutes had passed and the Aussies had already blundered their way into a dangerous situation.
However, the introduction of Mooy gave the side some needed stability, even if it was a forced substitution for the injured Smith. A couple of minutes later, Cahill equalised from a lovely Mathew Leckie cross.
— OptaJason (@OptaJason) October 10, 2017
Having restored the aggregate to level terms, Australia slowly grew into the game. Leckie and Rogic came close to taking the lead. But Syria were doing well in defence, springing the occasional counter to relieve the pressure.
However Al Mawas earned a second yellow for a foul on Kruse in the 4th minute of extra-time. And beyond that it was difficult for the Syrians to maintain their shape as the Aussies pounced. Postecoglou brought on Juric to flood the attack, and the Syrians were soon left scrambling for survival.
Cahill eventually broke through, managing to turn in Kruse’s cross to score his 50th international goal – and a momentous one at that. Al Somah almost came up with another stunner in stoppage time – one that might well have broken the Aussies’ will after two exhausting hours of battle.
But fortunately for them – and heartbreakingly for the Syrians – his shot only rattled the post. And Australia managed to cling on to their lead against the impressively stubborn Syrians.
— Caltex Socceroos (@Socceroos) October 10, 2017
Tim Cahill, the hero of the night for the Socceroos was naturally ecstatic after a grueling win. He also spoke of the weight of responsibility playing for the country, and what he hopes to see in the future:
“It was difficult. We knew we would tire them out and had to wait for our chances. In the end we got out goals. It was more mentally tough. This is where you ask questions of your players – who will take the lead and go with it.”
“For me I’m just glad the boss gave me the opportunity and believed in me to leave me out there. It’s a responsibility when I play. This is my passion. I will run to the end for this manager and these players.”
“It doesn’t matter who we play next. We have to take it to the next level now as players. I’m proud of everything we have done together and how we can help kids watching to follow their dreams.”
Ange: "I have no doubt that come the next 2 games in November these players will do what's needed." #GoSocceroos
— Caltex Socceroos (@Socceroos) October 10, 2017
You’ve got to write your own script. I said to Tommy Rogic if you don’t take your moment then I’m going to take it.”
Mark Milligan also weighed in:
“I didn’t mean to give it away (before Syria’s goal). It was a loose pass. I could have hit it a bit harder but they punished us with the quality in their striker.
“The longer the game went on, we had a good stranglehold on it. They fought with everything, they were outstanding and gave us an extremely tough match on our home soil.
“The next round will be a different match, we will have a different challenge on our hands.”
“Timmy (Cahill) worked outstandingly. That is something we have in us. We work until we cannot anymore.”