Qantas Joeys and Saudi Arabia finishes level

The Qantas Joeys recorded a first up draw against hosts Saudi Arabia in their under 16 friendly tournament in Taif

The Qantas Joeys recorded a first up 1-all draw against hosts Saudi Arabia in their under 16 friendly tournament in Taif.

A late equalizer from Taylor Tombides gave the Australian side a well-deserved draw in tough conditions.

Saudi Arabia took an early lead when the ball was played out wide from the Saudi defense, passed into their striker just outside the box. The striker smartly dribbled past two defenders and tucked his shot home in the bottom left corner past Australian custodian Jordan Thurtell.

George Mells provided a good switch of play from Australia-s left hand side, before a wall pass between James Baldachinno and Alex Gersbach opened up the space for Gersbach to beat another defender getting in behind the Saudi back four. The attack allowed Gersbach to dribble to the bi-line and a cut back to an unmarked Steve Kusmanovski who-s first time shot skimmed the cross bar

Australia-s solid build up play continued from the Joeys back four leading to Conor O-Neill isolating his defender and beating him one-on-one before putting in a floating cross to the back post which was met but Aaron Calver but his effort flew over the cross bar

It wasn-t until the 87th minute that a diagonal ball from Aaron Calver in behind the Saudi defense was met by Taylor Tombides who arched his run to meet the cross. Tombides was first to the ball and his first time volley chipped the on rushing Saudi keeper to level the scores.

“After traveling over 26 hours, having to adapt to the 2000 plus meter altitude plus being asked to play at 10pm this performance speaks volumes for the character of this group of players,” said Qantas Joeys coach Alistair Edwards.

“Saudi Arabia has not only provided us with challenges off the park but tonight we came up against a very good side, what was pleasing is that after a few minor tactical changes midway through the first half the boys started to impose our style of play on the game and particularly in the second half we dominated large parts of the game creating numerous opportunities.

“Once again, just as in Laos, teams are adopting a counterattacking style of play against us which is enabling us to control large parts of the game, the challenge for us now is to continue our developmental focus to breakdown the deep lying and compact defenses while maintaining our defensive transition team balance.

“We are progressing quite nicely and tomorrow night-s game v UAE will be another great opportunity to put this into practice.

“All of the 22 player squad will see action during this tournament, last night we introduced three of the overseas based players in the second half and over the next two games we will be looking to continue this integration as we strive to develop all these players in preparation for Iran and beyond.”