Dramatic win for Socceroos puts them into World Cup qualifying playoff with Syria

Socceroos players react at full time of their 2-1 victory over Thailand, which may not be enough for them to qualify ...
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Socceroos players react at full time of their 2-1 victory over Thailand, which may not be enough for them to qualify directly for the 2018 World Cup.

Mathew Leckie has given the Socceroos a World Cup qualifying lifeline, striking a late winner to earn Australia a 2-1 win over Thailand.

But whether Leckie's goal - coming after Tomi Juric's opener and Pokklaw Anan's stunning reply - is enough to send the Socceroos to Russia next year remains to be seen.

Australia will now face Syria in a two-leg Asia tie for the chance to play in a playoff against the fourth-placed Concacaf side. The winner would go on to the Fifa World Cup finals.

Mathew Leckie bangs in the match-winning goal for the Socceroos against Thailand at AAMI Park.
SCOTT BARBOUR/GETTY IMAGES

Mathew Leckie bangs in the match-winning goal for the Socceroos against Thailand at AAMI Park.

Back in Australia though and there was no lack of enterprise on display at AAMI Park in Melbourne on Tuesday night when the Socceroos achieved the result they wanted but not the scoreline, despite laying siege to the Thailand goal.

READ MORE: Draw sees All Whites advance to World Cup playoff

 

Coach Ange Postecoglou's side racked up an astonishing 45 shots and had 74 per cent possession but scored just twice.

"It could have been over five (goals) very, very easily," Juric said after the match.

"It was just one of those nights where the ball doesn't want to go in.

"A little but frustrating and now leaves us in a position of waiting for another result to go our way which is definitely not what we wanted."

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Both Mooy and Tim Cahill, returned to the starting line-up among six changes by Postecoglou, rattled the goalposts in the opening quarter-hour.

What appeared to be a rout in the making quickly turned into a frustrating night for the Socceroos.

Time after time, Australia went forward, only to be thwarted by the Thai rearguard.

Goalkeeper Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool made a string of superb saves, none better than a close-range effort to deny Juric's first-half volley.

The striker finally broke through on 69 minutes, heading home Aaron Mooy's pinpoint cross and sparking a mad scramble to run up the scoreline.

Instead, it was Thailand who stunned Australia on the counter, with Pokklaw thrashing home off the crossbar with eight minutes remaining.

Leckie saved Australia's blushes.

The right-winger jumped on a loose ball and threaded it through a congested box to ensure a Socceroos win.

They must now wait to learn if they will be going to Russia - or headed for a dreaded two-leg home-and-away qualifying route through Asia and North and Central America.

POSTECOGLOU STUNNED

An exasperated Postecoglou lamented the fact that the most dominant performance of his coaching career didn't yield a result to match.

Australia attacked from the kick-off until the final whistle and had tallied 29 shots before one finally went in.

But not even Juric's 69th-minute opener could open the floodgates.

Thailand's Pokklaw Anan equalised on the counter, before Leckie won the game for Australia.

After the match, an emotionally charged Postecoglou struggled to find the words to describe what he had seen.

"If there was a more one-sided contest, I don't think I've ever seen it," he said.

"Forty five shots; 20 odd inside the box, three posts; one cleared off the line. The goalkeeper's pulled off some great saves.

"Usually when the evidence is so overwhelming, you get the rewards. Tonight we didn't."

It remains to be seen whether the result will damn the Socceroos.

If Australia had scored four or five, Saudia would have needed a two or three-goal victory to reach Russia.

As it stands, any win will be enough for the Green Falcons.

"If we had have got one earlier, it might have opened them up a bit. It's heartbreaking for the players," he said.

Postecoglou snapped when asked to summarise his 10-game qualifying campaign.

"It's been unbelievable and it's been magnificent," he said sarcastically.

"I've been sitting here frustrated for the last two years, listening to some of the garbage being thrown around at these players.

"It's tough qualifying for a World Cup. It's even tougher when it's your first one.

"We've played 10 games and lost one. They've done everything I've asked of them.

"You know what? Yeah that's all I've got to say."

Australia 2 (Tomi Juric 69m, Mathew Leckie 86m) Thailand 1 (Pokklaw A-Nan 82m) at AAMI Park. Crowd: 26,393. Referee: Liu Kwok Man

 - AAP

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