Tim Cahill scores extra-time winner as Australia keep World Cup hopes alive
The 37-year-old finds the net twice as his side edge Syria 2-1 to progress to an intercontinental play-off next month
Tim Cahill scored twice, including the extra-time winner, as Australia kept their World Cup hopes alive with a 2-1 victory over Syria in the second leg of the Asian play-off on Tuesday.
The 3-2 aggregate victory sends the Socceroos into an intercontinental play-off next month against the fourth-placed team in North and Central America and the Caribbean qualifying with a World Cup spot on the line.
Cahill scored Australia’s opener with a trademark header in the 13th minute but it was not until 96 minutes later that he kept alive his country’s hopes of a fourth successive appearance at the World Cup finals with his 50th international goal.
“I knew I was going to score, I didn’t touch the ball much but in the end I delivered,” said 37-year-old Cahill, who has played at the last three World Cups. “That’s what I’ve done my whole life and I’ll continue to do it.”
The United States, Panama and Honduras, the three nations who could provide the opposition in the intercontinental play-off, play their final qualifiers on Wednesday morning (Hong Kong time).
Syria, who had to play all their “home” qualifiers in Malaysia because of the security situation in their war-torn nation, fought until the very end of the match but ultimately came up short in their bid for a maiden World Cup spot.
The visitors, without five first-choice players through injury or suspension, had made the perfect start in the sixth minute to cancel out Australia’s away goal advantage from the 1-1 first leg draw.
Tamer Haj Mohamad dispossessed Mark Milligan in midfield and he fed Omar Al Somah, who outpaced the Australian defence and planted the ball high in the net with his left foot.
Syrian midfielder Mahmoud Al Mawas was sent off for a second yellow card four minutes into the first period of extra time and from then on it appeared only a matter of time before the Australians would break down the already weary visitors.
“The longer the game went on, we had a good stranglehold on it. They fought with everything, they were outstanding and gave us an extremely tough match on our home soil,” Milligan said.
“We worked hard, we knew what we were capable of and it was going to start to hurt them late on.
“We went aggressive with our formation but everyone worked hard and that is what we have in us.
“It was a loose pass for me for their goal and they punished us with the quality in their striker. The next round will be a different match, we will have a different challenge on our hands.”