Adelaide (Australia) (AFP) – A spectacular long-range strike from Tom Rogic delivered Australia a crucial 3-2 win over Saudi Arabia on Thursday to stay on track for next year’s World Cup finals in Russia.
The stylish midfielder reprised his match-winning exploits for Celtic in last month’s Scottish Cup final when he scored the Socceroos’ winner in the 64th minute.
The Australians joined Japan and Saudi Arabia at the top of Asia Group B with their vital win after twice relinquishing the lead to the skilful Saudis in Adelaide.
The Socceroos, who have qualified for last three editions of the World Cup, now face a huge game against Japan in Saitama on August 31.
“We made it a little difficult for ourselves in the first half but we showed our quality and limited their chances in the second half and went on for the win,” Rogic said.
“I thought the goal was coming. We started to get on top in the second half and I just wanted to get the boys on the right way and to get the win which was the most important thing.”
Swiss-based striker Tomi Juric twice gave the Socceroos the lead in the first half but both times the Saudis fought back to be level at 2-2 at half-time.
The Socceroos were given a gift-wrapped opener when goalkeeper Yasser Al-Mosailem slipped and his clearing kick went straight to Juric, who found the an empty net after seven minutes.
But the Saudis threatened with their slick passing and running off the ball and equalised through Salem Al Dawsari, who finished well off a neat give-and-go with Mohammed Al Sahlawi in the 23rd minute.
The Australians could hardly string a pass together but somehow regained the lead with Juric’s second goal off a flicked header from James Leckie’s cross from the by-line.
But the Saudis rocked the home side with another equaliser deep in first-half stoppage time, when Taiseer Al Jassam’s controlled header across goal was fired home by Al Sahlawi.
Australia coach Ange Postecoglou reacted by bringing on Aziz Behich for left-back Brad Smith at the start of the second half.
Robbie Kruse replaced Jackson Irvine just before Australia grabbed the lead for a third time with Rogic’s scintillating, left-foot piledriver on 64 minutes.
Australia had a big shout for a penalty when Salman Al Faraj appeared to take out Leckie in the goal area, but it was waved away by the referee.