World Cup - Australia forced to fight back for 2-2 draw with Oman

Australia were forced to come from two goals down to keep their bid to reach a third successive World Cup finals just about on track with a 2-2 draw against Oman in an Asian qualifier at Sydney's Olympic stadium on Tuesday.

Reuters
World Cup - Australia forced to fight back for 2-2 draw with Oman
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Team mates congratulate Australia's Brett Holman (2-R) after he scored against Oman during their World Cup qualifying game.

The visitors stunned the 34,603 crowd at Sydney's Olympic stadium by taking a 1-0 lead through Abdul Aziz Mubarak in the sixth minute and doubling it courtesy of a Mile Jedinak own goal four minutes after the break.

Tim Cahill cut the deficit with a trademark header on 51 minutes, however, and Holman equalised with a 25-metre strike five minutes from time to save the home side's blushes in a match coach Holger Osieck had said was a "must-win".

"It was definitely not what we had expected, the first half was not according to plan and we almost had to pay dearly for that," German Osieck told reporters.

"In the second half the spirit was back, the boys really tried to turn it around. But it's a 2-2 draw and we have to live with that."

The draw means Australia and Oman are locked together on six points, seven behind runaway Group B leaders Japan, one ahead of Iraq and two clear of Jordan, who meet the Japanese later on Tuesday. The top two qualify for Brazil in 2014.

Cahill was named man-of-the-match for what sometimes looked like a solo effort to get his side back into the contest but Oman's Ali Al-Habsi might have felt aggrieved having denied the New York Red Bulls forward with a string of fine saves.

"I think when you saw the game, we should have had three points," the Wigan goalkeeper told reporters. "But this point has given us a lot of chance in the group. I'm so proud of the team."

Osieck was tactically outwitted by Oman's Paul Le Guen in the first half, the visitors defending well and getting an early reward for showing far more adventure than anyone had expected.

Mubarak got in behind defender Michael Thwaite and latched onto a hopeful lobbed pass before turning and drilling the ball under the legs of Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer from the corner of the six-yard area.

Going behind failed to galvanise the home side and they continued to labour in attack, lacking the accuracy and penetration to get through the ranks of red shirts.

The boos from the crowd started as early as the 36th minute, shortly after Holman had headed the ball into Al-Habsi's arms for Australia's first attempt on target.

Australia's hole got deeper five minutes into the second half when the Omani forward Raed Saleh rounded Matt McKay on the right flank and his cross was turned into his own net by Jedinak.

That finally provoked a response from the Socceroos and two minutes later Cahill rose to meet a Luke Wilkshire corner and steered a header into the corner of the Oman net for his 27th international goal.

Australia were now playing at the sort of tempo Cahill had said would be required and the former Everton forward was three times brilliantly denied by Al-Habsi.

A deflected Wilkshire shot beat Al-Habsi on the hour mark but came off both the bar and post and bounced awkwardly for Cahill following up.

Just when it looked like Oman might just claim a famous victory, Holman found some space coming in from the left flank and unleashed a powerful drive into the far corner.

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