Analysis: Saudi Arabia v Caltex Socceroos

In West Asia, when it comes to World Cup qualifiers, it’s never that straightforward, even for an Ange Postecoglou-coached side.

Australia showed the mental fortitude to come back from a goal down against an opponent that pressed hard early. 

They bossed large parts of this entertaining clash in Jeddah, but in the end it just had to be “The Earthquake” who had his say.

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Gallery: Socceroos held by Saudi on MD 3

The challenge of playing in West Asia was underlined a year ago almost to the day when Jordan deservedly defeated the Caltex Socceroos in Amman 2-0.  

Jeddah on Friday morning was another reminder.

Big, passionate and intimidating crowds, pumped up opposition, quality players and the heat (though it was significantly cooler in Jordan) show how much of a challenge it is to play away – especially when Australia concede first.

Socceroos v Saudi Arabia

The differences between now and a year ago, though, are quality and belief.

As shown last month in Abu Dhabi, the Australian squad is now a stronger, more experienced one, and the Ange philosophy is now so ingrained, the players and the game plan don’t fall apart when things go awry.

It’s just a pity Australia couldn’t hold on in Jeddah.

In the end, Nasser Al Shamrani – dubbed “The Earthquake” - shook a packed King Abdullah Sports City Stadium with his late goal. Lucky to a degree but like any good striker Johnny on the spot in the box thereby keeping the Saudis in the game and unbeaten in three.

It was a measure of revenge on Australian football after the infamous 2014 ACL final loss for Al-Hilal and the ugly aftermath.

In fact, had it not been for Mat Ryan’s excellent stop after the Saudis broke through the Aussie backline in the final, frantic few minutes, it might have been 3-2 in Jeddah.

A year ago, the fabulous Jordanian striker Hamza Al-Dardour caused our defence all sorts of problems.

This time in Saudi it was the Al Hilal man Nawaf Al Abed who engineered most of the danger (his assist to set up the opener was top drawer).

In truth, Australia was not at its fluent best, though Tom Rogic again showed why he’s such a rising star of the national team and Celtic.

And Tomi Juric continues to press his claims for a starting XI berth after another goal. 

Japan now awaits next Tuesday night.

Australian could be meet Japan in the next stage of World Cup Qualifying.

The Japanese controversially defeated Iraq overnight with some late drama in Saitama, and are one point behind Australia and the Saudis. 

They aren’t in trouble in the group but a win for the Australians and three points for Saudi at home to UAE will ramp up the heat on the Samurai Blue.

It should be a fabulous game at Docklands between two technical, attacking teams. 

And back on home soil after their trip back from Jeddah, the unbeaten Australians will relish the home support. 

You sense Tim Cahill - who sat on the bench for the whole game in Jeddah - might again have his say in his new hometown Melbourne.