Australia will face Peru next week for a place in November’s World Cup final after beating the United Arab Emirates 2-1 on Tuesday in the final Asian qualifier for Qatar 2022.
Defender Ali Salmeen deflected Ajdin Hrustic’s volley past Khaled Eisa six minutes from time at Al Rayyan’s Ahmad bin Ali Stadium to keep Australia’s hopes alive of advancing to a fifth World Cup final consecutive world.
Jackson Irvine had put Graham Arnold’s side ahead with a 53rd-minute close-range strike, but Caio Canedo equalized four minutes later with an emphatic finish in the roof of Mathew Ryan’s net.
The Australians increased the pressure throughout the second half and it finally paid off when Hrustic volleyed towards goal after Aaron Mooy’s corner and Salmeen’s deflection proved decisive.
“We showed good character, I think we dominated the majority of the game and took our chances when they came,” Australian Martin Boyle said.
“It’s only a job half done. We have to dust ourselves off, prepare and we’ll start over.”
How Australia kept their World Cup qualification hopes alive…
Harib Abdalla Suhail had been the main threat down the left for an Emirates side who had the upper hand in the initial exchanges, forcing Ryan to make a pair of saves at his near post in the tepid opening 45 minutes.
But eight minutes into the second half the Australians struck, Boyle turning the defense before finding Irvine, who scored for the first time from inside the penalty area.
The lead lasted four minutes as Suhail’s pace once again proved problematic. The Shabab Al Ahli winger curled in a cross and Caio eventually pushed his left-footed shot into the roof of the net.
Both Craig Goodwin and Hrustic had efforts that flew over the target before Boyle saw the ball bounce off his shins and away as the Australians increased the pressure.
Eisa kept the Emirates in the game with an instinctive save from substitute Jamie Maclaren 10 minutes from time, but there was little he could do four minutes later.
Mooy’s corner headed towards the edge of the penalty area and Hrustic made a powerful connection, the ball taking a decisive deflection off Salmeen’s hip to leave Eisa helpless.
The Socceroos meet Peru at the same venue next Monday in the first of two intercontinental play-offs to determine the remaining places in the final, with New Zealand taking on Costa Rica in the final qualifier 24 hours later.