It wouldn’t be a Socceroos game without making it as difficult for themselves and as stressful for us as possible. With the game kicking off so late my tired brain was not prepared to deal with the stress of that game.
We lead the charge scoring first from a bloody superb Awer Mabil left foot curler. With quite a few chances being created in the leadup no one was able to put on the finishing touch until Mabil took it on himself from the edge of the box after dribbling past a few Syrian defenders. After 7 games for Australia Mabil has already tallied up 4 goals and he’s proven himself to be a starter in the squad.
Annoyingly, not even a minute later Syria equalised when their striker was left unmarked in the box. Maty Ryan managed to parry off the first shot but the second was sent rocketing into the top of the net. No Sainsbury seems to be a bit of an issue, Milligan did his best but he’s not a centre back.
Maclaren had chance after chance with Grant putting in some very nice crosses (we lost the BeardTM but now we have the MulletTM), and Ikonimidis and Rogic feeding him some wonderful through balls. Macca just didn’t have the killer instinct. Cracking his scoring drought last game didn’t open the floodgates for him like so many wanted. We still don’t have a starting striker but luckily our goals are coming from elsewhere.
Our second came from Ikonomidis who once again made his mark on the game. Bagging another assist and scoring a tap in when we needed it most. What a lad. Perhaps another example of why they need Goal line technology in international matches, extra officials are great and the decision to award the goal was pretty quick but another ref on another day might not have given it. I must admit even watching the replays it is hard to tell whether it crossed the line because when it looks like it has the ball was in the air, nevertheless I’m glad the refs were confident enough to stick with their decision. The goal came from a very nice cross by Rogic.
Our front third, in Rogic, Mabil and Iko, were combining fantastically. Some very nice passing and lots of opportunities being created, those three all feeding balls through to Maclaren and Giannou once he came on. Giannou almost had a goal but it fired off the upright. Very positive signs given all the injuries we’ve copped, maybe most importantly losing Leckie. Our right side particularly effective with Grant playing one of his best games, the power of the mullet really taking effect, and Mabil making that wing his own.
We were lucky to escape a handball penalty from Milligan, nine times out of ten the referee will give that as a penalty, but we were lucky to escape this time. Of course, this was made up for later in the game.
The Syrian players were once again unsteady on the grassland, but only when it was convenient for them. A dodgy penalty was given in the second half for Syria to equalise late in the game. It looked like the player tripped on his own teammate without any Australian players being physically close enough to commit a foul even if they wanted to. It wouldn’t be an Australia v Syria match without some interesting refereeing.
So, at 2-2 and with 3 minutes of added time to go it wasn’t looking great for us. Were we about to leave our fate in the hands of another teams results again? Typical Socceroos, making me have a heart attack instead of being in bed. But then something wonderful happened, Rogic thought he was
playing for Celtic. Maybe he saw a vision of Mickey Mouse, or maybe he heard Chris Sutton yelling at the clouds from all the way back in Scotland. Maybe Arnie found his remote. I don’t know what it was, but Rogic had his trademark top of the box shot and it BLOODY WENT IN! Looks like it wasn’t Jordan we needed him for after all, it was Syria. Eat your heart out Scotland. Ikonomidis with a fantastic cutback, and Grant inspired it pushing high then dropping back to set up the buildup play and allow Iko to move out on the wing. The goal came in the last minute of additional time.
I couldn’t bloody believe it. Neither could the Syrian fans.
Rogic remembered how to football. Mabil is fantastic. Ikonomidis is fantastic. The three of them passing and combining is wonderful to watch. Very good signs. Sadly, Arnie still thinks Kruse deserves a chance to play, he subbed on for Mabil late in the second half. Don’t ask me why, I couldn’t tell you. Still waiting for Borello to get the call so Maclaren can remember how to football also.
1. I can’t believe we’ve made it out of the group. We’re already doing better than I expected.
2. ALL OF OUR GOALS WERE FROM OPEN PLAY! NO PENS! NO GIFTS! HOLY SHIT.
3. I love Awer ‘man of the people’ Mabil.
The A-league players in the squad really are the bright sparks, European football must crush the spirit out of our players and turn them into robots. Being around all these players who actually value representing their NT and want to play football seems to have flicked the switch for Rogic, who played better than I’ve ever seen him play for Australia. It could just be that Arnie is a coach he wants to impress. Whatever it is, I’m glad he’s remembered how to play football.
Next up the Round of 16, let’s see if we can keep up our enthusiasm and fix our defence. Fingers crossed.
By Kianna Aquilina