The Caltex Socceroos have defeated Thailand 2-1 in their final Group B World Cup qualifier on Tuesday night, putting the pressure back on Saudi Arabia as automatic qualification to Russia 2018 reaches a thrilling climax.
With six changes made to the starting XI against Japan last week, and captained by national team legend Tim Cahill, there was a sense of urgency from the start on a cool night in Melbourne.
But the Thais rode their luck and defended desperately, while pint-size attacker Chanathip Songkrasin was a constant threat to Mat Ryan’s goal.
But they could only hold out for so long as the desperate Aussies pressed for as many goals as they could.
Australia will now hope Japan can do them a favour by winning or drawing in Jeddah overnight against the Saudis. If the Saudis win they'll progress as one of the two automatic qualifiers.
STORY OF THE GAME
• Australia hit the post three times as they peppered the Thai goal with raid after raid.
• The Thai game plan was to defend in numbers, stay compact but try to hit on the break with their fast and tricky forwards, in particular the classy “Thai Messi” Chanathip Songkrasin.
• Just before the break Tomi Juric missed a golden opportunity to open the scoring, smashing his shot just wide.
• It was 0-0 at the break but within minutes of the restart the Thais had a strong penalty shout waved away after a challenge by Trent Sainsbury.
• But three late goals ensured there was plenty of drama with the Aussies scoring twice in the final 20 minutes to cancel out plucky Thailand's effort.
Socceroos 1-0 Juric 69’
Aaron Mooy with plenty of time to measure his in-swinging cross from the left and Juric was first to it to guide the ball home
Thailand 1-1 A-Nan 82’
Australia were opened up down their right, and Notechaiya’s cutback from A-Nan who buried his first time shot.
Socceroos 2-1 Leckie 86’
After a corner wasn’t deal with, Leckie was first to a loose ball in the box to bury it home.
Degenek not taking his foot off the gas
Twelve months ago, Caltex Socceroos defender Milos Degenek was playing in Japan — now, he’s tearing up Serbia’s SuperLiga, having been named in the league’s best eleven for the first half of the season. It’s a credit to Degenek, 24, who signed with Red Star Belgrade in July
Degenek named in Serbian Superliga's best XI
Caltex Socceroos defender Milos Degenek has been named in the Serbian Superliga’s best eleven players of the first half of the season after his performances for Red Star Belgrade. AUSSIES ABROAD: Sainsbury denies former club Inter in first UCL start READ MORE: Where you can w
FFA to conduct additional injury assessment with Aaron Mooy
Football Federation Australia (FFA) acknowledges Huddersfield Town’s statement regarding Aaron Mooy released on Thursday morning (AEDT). Due to the significance of the AFC Asian Cup to the Caltex Socceroos, FFA will proceed with a plan to deploy its High Performance Coordina
Aussies Abroad: Rogic and Vukovic progress to Europa League Round of 32
The Europa League Round of 32 will have an Aussie flavour after Tom Rogic and Danny Vukovic both sealed their progression to the knockout stage of Europe’s second-tier competition. Rogic played 90 minutes as Celtic did it the hard way, their 2-1 loss at the hands of FC Salzbur