Saudis deny Australia with late equaliser

Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) (AFP) – Saudi Arabia’s Nassir Al Shamrani scored late to deny Australia a crucial victory in Thursday’s World Cup 2018 qualifier between the top two sides in Asian zone Group A.

The entertaining 2-2 draw ensured both sides maintained their unbeaten start after three matches in the final round of qualifying for Russia.

Shamrani struck in the 79th minute, just eight minutes after Tomi Juric finished a well-constructed move to put the Socceroos on the verge of claiming victory.

Australia had come from behind to take the lead.

Saudi’s Taisir Al Jassim struck in just the fifth minute finishing smartly from 10 yards to secure an early advantage for the home side.

But Trent Sainsbury equalised on the stroke of half-time, heading home smartly from a corner.

Both sides will have been pleased to avoid defeat but either could have won it with chances late in the game.

The result leaves Australia top of the group with seven points, the same number as the Saudis.

Close behind the two on six points are Japan who narrowly beat Iraq 2-1 earlier in the day, and the United Arab Emirates who beat Thailand 3-1.

Thursday’s results set up an intriguing round of matches next week when Australia play Japan and the Saudis play the UAE.

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