Tom Rogic buries his stoppage-time goal. Picture: AP
Tom Rogic buries his stoppage-time goal. Picture: AP

Rogic, Mabil rockets keep Roos’ defence alive

THE  Socceroos' Asian Cup defence is still alive, after Tom Rogic's sweet stoppage-time strike sealed a 3-2 win over Syria and safe passage to the tournament's knockout stages.

Awer Mabil continued his national-team breakthrough with a peach of a first-half opener in Tuesday night's breathless, hostile and controversial group-stage finale with everything on the line for both sides.

Syrian gun Omar Khribin equalised moments later, before Chris Ikonomidis regained the lead after the break at Al Ain's Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium.

And though Omar Al-Somah scored a dubious penalty late in proceedings, Rogic stepped up to ensure victory and set up a round-of-16 date with either Uzbekistan or Japan at the same venue.

Tom Rogic buries his stoppage-time goal. Picture: AP
Tom Rogic buries his stoppage-time goal. Picture: AP

Second spot in the group was confirmed after Jordan's simultaneous scoreless draw with Palestine.

The equation for the Socceroos was simple and the expectation tangible in front of a zealous pro-Syrian crowd.

Only a point was required for automatic progression, against a team that hadn't scored a goal all tournament and sacked their coach five days ago.

But, while the Palestine win put Australia's campaign back on track, seeds of doubt sewn in the opening loss to Jordan remained.

And as Australia learnt during the World Cup qualifiers, Syria don't lack intensity.

 

Mabil celebrates with Graham Arnold. Picture: AP
Mabil celebrates with Graham Arnold. Picture: AP

 

Here, galvanised by the return of former coach Fajr Ibrahim and the prospect of revenge against the country that knocked them out of Russia 2018 reckoning, they needed a win and came out breathing fire.

Those members of the Socceroos squad involved in the second leg of that October 2017 play-off would have baulked when, in the fourth minute, Omar Al-Somah stepped up for a free-kick.

This time it didn't get anywhere near the post, but Al-Somah still caused chaos everywhere he went, and could have headed his side to a 13th-minute lead had his eye been in.

 

The other danger man was 2017 Asian footballer of the year Khribin, who sashayed this way and that and had a game-high six shots.

In the 31st minute, Milligan was pinned for a questionable foul on Mohammed Osman, and for a split-second it seemed as if the contentious decision would put Syria ahead.

But, as the subsequent free-kick sailed past every defender and into the net, Osman felled Milligan and the goal didn't count.

From there the first half was mostly all Australia, as Rhyan Grant made some impressive attacking forays down the right.

Ikonomidis belted a long-range shot but was denied, before Rogic played in Jamie Maclaren with an exquisitely weighted ball but the striker failed to beat Alma at his near post.

The, Mabil cut inside his man and unleashed a pile-driver that sailed delicately past Ibrahim Alma's outstretched glove and into the top corner for his fourth goal in seven caps.

The scenes of jubilation that followed were cruelly short-lived.

Scarcely a minute later Al-Ajaan whipped in a cross and Mat Ryan did well to block Khribin's point-blank header, only for him to divert it past the goalkeeper on the rebound.

Australia needed a safety cushion, and Ikonomidis provided it in the 54th minute.

 

Socceroos celebrate the win. Picture: Getty
Socceroos celebrate the win. Picture: Getty

 

Another poisonous Rogic delivery found the Perth Glory man and he stabbed home, the ball just crossing the line before a defender dived into goal for a desperate clearance.

Extensive Syrian protests did nothing to change referee Cesar Ramos' mind, just like their unsuccessful appeal for a penalty when the ball hit Milligan on the arm inside the area but popped up off his foot.

Australia pushed hard for another and substitute Apostolos Giannou struck the upright.

Then Syria drove forward and Mat Ryan made the save, followed by another.

 

 

Then, 10 minutes from time, after Ryan denied Khribin's free-kick Al-Somah appeared to trip on his own teammate and went down in the box, before sending Ryan the wrong way from the spot.

In the 93rd minute Rogic made sure it wouldn't come back to haunt Graham Arnold's team, receiving a pass from Ikonomidis about 20 metres out, picking his spot and putting the ball right where he wanted it.

 

Hands up if you scored a cracker. Picture: AP
Hands up if you scored a cracker. Picture: AP
News Corp Australia


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