Saudi Arabia holds firm as Socceroos have to settle for homecoming draw

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Saudi Arabia showed why they are the leaders of Group B in Asian World Cup qualification on Thursday night, as they held the Socceroos to a 0-0 draw at Western Sydney Stadium.

Despite the Australians putting Saudi Arabia under an abundance of pressure, the away team held firm, not allowing the home fans any joy watching their side for the first time in over two years.

In a heated affair culminating in numerous yellow cards, tensions boiled between the nations, with the referee somehow seeing the game out without a major incident.

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Rhyan Grant got Australian hearts racing in the first minute, with the right-back finding himself with an early chance. Grant couldn’t ultimately find the target, striking it over.

In the 10th minute it was Saudi Arabia’s turn to attack, as Salem Aldawsari beat Grant on the edge of the box, before firing in a cutback that couldn’t find one of the many attackers waiting.

It was the away team who also had the next chance of note, when Feras Albrikan found space in the 14th minute inside the penalty area. It was Harry Souttar who proved to be Australia’s hero, blocking the shot with a diving effort.

Near chances from Australian attacker Mathew Leckie, as well as from Ajdin Hrustic, left Australian fans feeling as though they deserved more from the first half.

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It was Australia who had the brighter start to the second half, with Leckie having the home teams best chance of the game to that point in the 59th. He fired a shot low to Saudi Arabian goalkeeper Faraj Alyami’s left, with the keeper up to the task.

Alyami was nearly called upon yet again under a minute later, with Mabil finding time to cut the ball back in the 60th for Jackson Irvine. The shot sprayed wide, with the Australians again not being able to convert pressure.

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After an injury to defender Souttar, it was the Saudi Arabians who begun to push back on the Australians with goalkeeper Mathew Ryan needing to pull out numerous saves to keep the Socceroos in it.

The game’s best goalscoring chance came as a result of Saudi Arabian captain Salman Alfaraj, who found substitute Saleh Khalid Alshmari’s head six yards out.

He ended up putting it wide, with it being the last major chance for either team in the match.

The draw leaves Saudi Arabia on top of Group B on 13 points, with Australia sitting in second with 10.

The Socceroos play China next Wednesday morning (AEDT) in a crucial match where all three points need to be taken, whilst Saudi Arabia come up against Vietnam.

Australia 0

Saudi Arabia 0

Stadium: Western Sydney Stadium

Referee: Ko Hyungjin

Assistant Referees: Yoon Jaeyeol and Park Sangjun

Fourth Official: Kim Woosung

Australia: Mathew RYAN (GK)(Captain), Rhyan GRANT, Harry SOUTTAR (Milos DEGENEK 78th), Trent SAINSBURY, Aziz BEHICH, James JEGGO, Ajdin HRUSTIC (Ken DOUGALL 87th) Jackson IRVINE, Awer MABIL (Mitchell DUKE 67th), Martin BOYLE (Riley MCGREE 87th), Mathew LECKIE (Andrew NABBOUT 78th)

Unused Subs: Callum ELDER, Fran KARACIC, Jamie MACLAREN, Lawrence THOMAS, Denis GENREAU, Daniel VUKOVIC, Gianni STENSNESS

Saudi Arabia: Mohammed FARAJ ALYAMI (GK), Sultan ABDULLAH ALGHANNAM, Ali HADI AL BULAYHI, Abdulelah ALAMRI, Nasser ESSA ALDAWSARI, Abdulelah SAAD ALMALKI, Mohammed KANNO, Salman ALFARAJ (Captain), Feras ALBRIKAN (Saleh KHALID ALSHEHRI 72nd), Salem ALDAWSARI, Fhad MOSAED ALMUWALLAD

Unused Subs: Ziyad ABDULWAHED ALSAHAFI, Ahmed SHARAHILI, Mohammed IBRAHIM ALBURAYK, Saud ABDULLAH ABDULHAMID, Ali HASSAN ALASMARI, Ali ALHASSAN, Sami ALNAJI, Abdulrahman ABDULLAH GHAREEB, Abdulrahman ALOBUD, Zaid MAJED ALBAWARDI, Nawaf DHAHI ALAQIDI

Featured image credit: Alen Delic

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William Makepeace
Current Intern covering Canberra United. Sports Media student at University of Canberra who lives and breathes Football

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