Substitute Tim Cahill scored the equalizer in injury time of yesterday’s Group A Asian Cup qualifier, earning Australia a point against Oman at Thailand’s Rajamangala Stadium.
|Oman's defender Said Suwailim (right) vies with Australia's star Harry Kewell|
The opening ten minutes of the match was a scrappy affair with neither side creating any clear chances until Ismail Ali, Oman’s top scorer in the qualifiers, headed Yousuf Sha’ban’s corner over the bar.
Oman again came close to breaking the deadlock five minutes later when Sha’ban dived into the six-yard box in a desperate attempt to get his head on the end of an Ahmed Hadid free-kick that swung in from the left.
Harry Kewell, who had earlier attempted to win a penalty by falling to the ground under minimal contact from defender Hassan Yousuf Madhafar, was perfectly placed in the apex of the six-yard-box to hammer home Luke Wilkshire’s 20th minute free-kick but the Liverpool attacker knocked the ball across goal instead of into the back of the net.
The Socceroos looked down and out when Oman took the lead in the 32nd minute with Badar Mubarak converting midfielder Ahmed Al-Mukhaini’s pass inside the box to score the opening goal.
Australia had the chance to hit back immediately after, but striker Mark Viduka swept his free-kick high and wide before Oman goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi, who was out sharply to deny Mark Bresciano his chance in the 41st minute.
Three minutes after the interval, Oman almost doubled their lead when Ahmed Mubarak cleverly created space for a low shot from just outside the area, but Schwarzer got down well to tip the ball away.
The Middlesbrough keeper again came to his side’s rescue in the 70th minute with a timely one-handed save from Imad Ali’s header following a move that started with Oman keeper Ali Al Habsi punching clear a Wilkshire corner.
With 13 minutes left to play, Schwarzer was again the saviour for Australia with a smart block from Fawzi Basheer, although the midfield dynamo that came on for goal scorer Badar Mubarak on the hour mark should have scored a second goal for Oman.
However, Oman were punished during stoppage time when Oman’s goalkeeper, Al Habsi, parried Bresciano’s powerful shot back to the feet of Tim Cahill, who made no mistake in firing home the rebounded ball into the back of the net, scoring the much needed equalizer.
The result mirrored Saturday’s result between Group A hosts Thailand and Iraq, leaving all four teams level on points and goal difference after the first round matches.