Syria scored a late penalty in a 1-1 first leg draw with Australia, keeping alive their dreams of reaching the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The game started in Australia’s favour, and it was the Socceroos who broke the deadlock. Mathew Leckie crossed the ball, and Robbie Kruse was on hand to finish.
Syria continued their plucky resilience, which has served them well so far through qualifying, but Australia remained on top for much of the game. Tomi Juric struck the post for the visitors.
However, a late penalty award gave Syria hope and it was calmly dispatched by star striker Omar Al Soma.
Al Soma, who plays his club football in Saudi Arabia for Al Ahli, also scored an injury time equaliser against Iran in their previous match. That result allowed Syria to finish third in their qualifying group and reach the playoff.
Syria even had the chance to win the game in injury time through Mouaiad Al Ajjan, but his strike was brilliantly kept out by Brighton goalkeeper Mat Ryan.
The first leg of the Asian qualifying playoff against Australia was hosted in Syria’s makeshift home stadium, the Hang Jebat Stadium in Malaysia – some 9,000 miles from Syria itself.
The second leg in Sydney takes place next Tuesday.