Australia’s World Cup qualifying hopes have been dealt a blow after Oman held them to a 2-2 draw in their World Cup qualifying match in Muscat, Oman, on Tuesday night.
The draw leaves Australia third in their group, three points behind Japan and four behind Saudi Arabia, the two teams they have to play in the remaining qualifying matches.
They will need to win both those matches to have a chance of making the top two in their group and hence securing a berth in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Failing that, they will have to play a sudden death match against a South American side for another opportunity to qualify.
With a recent spike in local COVID-19 cases, in addition to injuries, the home side took the field on Tuesday night minus several of their regular starters, making Australia the clear favourite.
The Socceroos were also coming off the back of a 4-0 thumping of Vietnam.
Australia looked to have their first goal in the 5th minute off the head of Trent Sainsbury after an Aaron Mooy corner, but Sainsbury was correctly ruled off-side.
However, ten minutes later, Martin Boyle drew contact from the Oman goalkeeper in the penalty area, thus giving Australia a chance to get on the scoreboard.
Jamie Maclaren made no mistake, driving the ball into the top right corner of the net, giving the Socceroos a 1-0 lead.
No more goals were scored in the first half, but in the 54th minute, Oman struck back with a fantastic strike into the top corner from Abdullah Fawaz, levelling the score at 1-1.
Then, in the 79th minute, the Socceroos restored their lead with an Aaron Mooy goal after a great left cross from Craig Goodwin.
It was Mooy’s first goal for Australia in almost two and a half years.
It looked like the Socceroos had the match sewn up when, with three minutes of regular time left, defender Fran Karacic challenged Muhsen Al-Ghassani in the penalty area, giving away a questionable penalty.
Abdullah Fawaz sent goalkeeper Matt Ryan the wrong way to slot the penalty home and level the score at 2-2.
Neither team added to the score in the six minutes of extra time.
Socceroos captain Matt Ryan said in an interview after the match that he was very disappointed considering how well the team had prepared.
“At the end of the day, it’s not good enough,” he said.
Ryan added that they need to learn from this experience and improve because there is still an opportunity to qualify.
“Obviously, when you face a bit of hardship, it’s how you respond, and that’s got to be the focus now,” he said.
Australia now faces Japan at home on March 24 and Saudi Arabia away on March 29.