Australia have avoided a huge World Cup qualifying setback, fighting back from two goals down to snatch a 2-2 draw with a spirited Oman.
The Qantas Socceroos have avoided a huge World Cup qualifying setback, fighting back from two goals down to snatch a 2-2 draw with a spirited Oman at Stadium Australia on Tuesday night.
The Socceroos appeared headed for an embarrassing - and potential fatal - home defeat when the Omani's got out to a 2-0 lead four minutes into the second half.
But a trademark Tim Cahill header and a bullet 85th-minute strike from Brett Holman spared the home side's blushes and ensured their hopes of getting to Brazil are still very much in their own hands.
Despite producing one of their poorest performances on home soil in some time, the Socceroos almost stole all three points in stoppage time.
Cahill, who was a handful from set pieces all night, rose highest to meet Luke Wilkshire's corner but the impressive Omani skipper Ali Al Habsi clawed it away to safety to ensure the visitors a commendable point on the road.
The draw keeps the Socceroos in second spot in their group, level with Oman on six points, although Jordan could leapfrog both sides if they defeat Japan when they meet later on Tuesday.
The suspension of skipper Lucas Neill meant it was a new-look central defensive pairing of Robbie Cornthwaite and Michael Thwaite for the Socceroos and they were caught cold inside six minutes.
The Australian defence was caught square from a harmless lofted ball over the top, with Abdul Aziz out-pacing Thwaite to the ball.
Socceroos goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer did his best to narrow the angle but the Omani striker poked the ball through his legs to give the visitors a shock lead.
While Australia were enjoying large chunks of possession, their passing was often too sloppy or slow to penetrate the well-organised a deep Omani defence.
Indeed, Australia's best chances of a poor first half came from set pieces.
Mile Jedinak, who struggled to impose himself on the match, leapt highest to meet Wilkshire's free kick on 25 minutes but his effort sailed across the face of goal and wide.
The home side did finally force Al Habsi into a save eight minutes before the break.
Cahill timed his jump perfectly to nod back Matt McKay's centre into the path of Holman but his powerful header was well saved by Al Habsi.
Holger Osieck would have demanded an immediate response but the Socceroos gave themselves a mountain to climb when they conceded again three minutes into the second half.
This time it was all their own doing.
A quickly taken Oman free kick allowed Raed Saleh to get free down the right and his powerful, low cross was turned into his own net by a despairing Jedinak.
But just as it seemed the Socceroos night was done, they hit back almost immediately through Cahill.
Wilkshire swung in a pinpoint corner from the right with the former Everton man using his impressive spring to get up high and divert his header into the corner of the net.
All of a sudden the home side found verve and should have been level five minutes later but for Al Habsi did well to make himself big when Alex Brosque looked like pouncing.
The Socceroos went even closer on the hour mark.
Wilkshire's shot from the corner of the box took a deflection, with the ball looping over Al Habsi but agonisingly for the home side it hit the cross bar and bounced away.
Oman were struggling to deal with Cahill's threat in the air and he went close to equalising on two occasions from corners, but each time found Al Habsi too hard to beat.
Just when it looked like Australia were running out of ideas, Holman delivered what could be a priceless goal.
Substitute Tommy Oar did well to keep the ball in on the left, releasing to Holman who unleashed a dipping shot from 25 metres out that slipped under Al Habsi and into the net.
Cahill's late chance almost won it for the Socceroos but they had to be content with a hard-earned point in front of just under 35,000 fans.
Australia 2/b> (Cahill 51, Holman 85) Oman 2 (Aziz 6, Jedinak 49og)
Crowd: 34,603 @ ANZ Stadium
Trio of Australian Match Officials appointed to panel for FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019
FIFA have recent...ly announced that Hyundai A-League referee Chris Beath along with Assistant Referees Ashley Beecham & Anton Shchetinin have been appointed as match officials for FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil which will be held in Brazil from 26 October to 17 November 2019. Beath,
'An amazing feeling': Degenek on cusp of Champions League after maiden Red Star goal
Caltex Socceroos defender Milos Degenek has scored a priceless goal to have Red Star Belgrade on the cusp of UEFA Champions League qualificatio...n. Degenek scored Red Star's opening goal - his first-ever for the club - in their first leg qualifier away against Swiss side Young B
Aussies Abroad: Luongo and Wednesday go top of the Championship as Irvine captains Hull
Massimo Luongo has entered Hillsborough, and the Owls are flying high in the EFL Championship. Luongo was deployed as a late substitute by manager Lee Bulleen as a 54th minute goal from Kadeem Harris handed Sheffield Wednesday a 1-0 win over Luton Town this morning. MORE: B