AFC Asian Cup: Defending champion Australia made to sweat by Syria

A draw would have sealed Syria's progression to the round-of-16 but Tomas Rogic's fiery strike from 25 yards out in stoppage-time cause the Syrians heartbreak as Australia won 3-2.

Tomas Rogic fired a fiery strike from 25 yards out in stoppage-time to steer Australia to a mind-numbing 3-2 win at AFC Asian Cup 2019.   -  AP

The scoreline read 2-1 with 15 minutes of play left and the painful memories seemed to resurface among the Syrians. For they lost by the same scoreline against the same opponent, Australia, in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers in 2017. However, Omar Al-Soma's strike from the spot in the 80th minute brought the game back on level terms much to the joy of the packed Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain, but little did they expect the late drama that would follow. 

A draw would have sealed Syria's progression to the round-of-16 but it was not meant to be as Tomas Rogic fired a fiery strike from 25 yards out in stoppage-time to cause the Syrians heartbreak once again and steer Australia to a mind-numbing 3-2 win at AFC Asian Cup 2019.

Jordan finished on the top of Group B with Australia on the second spot and Palestine on the third. Syria finishes at the bottom with one point to its name.

Awer Mabil, with his second goal of the campaign, put the Socceroos ahead with a delicious strike a few minutes shy of the first half. But the lead lasted for all of a minute as Omar Kharbin, who was voted the Asian Footballer of the Year in 2017, found the back of the net almost immediately to restore parity. 

Emotions spilled onto the pitch as some dubious refereeing saw Australia take the lead nine minutes after resumption. Chris Ikonomidis' shot was cleared off the goalline by Omro Al Midani but the Mexican referee, with little support from his assistant, adjudged that the ball had crossed the line and awarded the goal to Australia.

The Syrians protested vehemently and pleaded with the referee while the crowd whistled and jeered but the decision had been made and Syria was forced had to claw its way back into the game once again. 

Defending champion Australia nearly capped off the win when substitute Apostolos Giannou struck the post with 15 minutes left on the clock, but another glaring refereeing error saw Syria equalise. Al-Soma went down in the box and Syria was awarded a penalty, but television replays showed that Al-Soma was infact tripped by his own teammate. The Syrian had no problem in converting from the spot and brought the game back to life but Rogic's winner in the dying stages forced the Syrians out of the competition.

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