Australia’s hopes of automatic qualification for the 2022 World Cup took a significant hit as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Oman.
Aaron Mooy thought he had bailed out his teammates when he put Australia ahead with 10 minutes to go, but Abdullah Fawaz’s late penalty delivered a crushing blow that the Socceroos couldn’t respond to.
Jamie Maclaren put Australia ahead early on, converting a penalty earned by Martin Boyle who was brought down by Faiz Al-Rushaidi.
Oman responded in the second half, and were quick to get back into the game with a fabulous effort from outside the box from Fawaz that left Mathew Ryan clutching at thin air.
The result means that Australia’s next match against Japan is now a must-win, and they will also need to get a result against Saudi Arabia should they have any hopes of qualifying automatically for this year’s World Cup Finals in Qatar.
QUALITY LACKING IN ATTACK
Australia coasted into the half-time break having dominated the game, but without looking overly dangerous.
Aside from Boyle’s run to win the penalty, the Socceroos failed to fashion any clear chances, looking lacklustre and clueless going forwards.
Leckie in particular was guilty of picking the ball up in a promising position but failing to beat his man, whilst a lack of dynamic runs into the box from supporting players made creating an opportunity difficult for him and Boyle.
Maclaren took his penalty well but offered little to nothing else, as this game became another example of how ineffective he is when he hasn’t got players in proximity to support him.
With crucial matches against much higher quality opposition to come – matches that will decide Australia’s qualification status – they will have to be bolder and work harder if/when the opportunity to control the game arises.
MOOY RETURNING TO FORM
The Shanghai Port midfielder put in a vintage display, back to making sweeping cross-field passes to open up the pitch and put pressure on the Oman full-backs.
He had a hand in creating an opportunity for Jackson Irvine, when his ball over the top to the back post was headed back across goal by Boyle. The clearance fell kindly to Irvine, whose shot flashed narrowly wide of the post.
Mooy arriving late into the box for his goal is a good example for the rest of his teammates to follow as something that needs to be done far more.
Whilst the output of his forwards may have been inadequate, Australia’s most talented player looked close to being back his best.
INDIVIDUAL ERRORS COST AUSTRALIA
It’s been a theme throughout these qualification matches; Australia’s defenders cannot be consistent for the full 90 minutes.
Fran Karacic was caught on the wrong side of his man, and his messy challenge from behind gave the referee the opportunity to make a decision.
Replays showed that Karacic may have got a toe on the ball, but there was inconclusive evidence from the VAR officials to overturn the decision
Regardless, the lack of discipline may have cost Australia a spot at the World Cup.
World Cup 2022 Qualification Asia (Third Stage): Round
Oman 2 (Fawaz 54m, 89m)
Australia 2 (Maclaren 14m, Mooy 79m)