The Asian leg of World Cup Qualifiers 2018 Russia took us to Jeddah where Saudi Arabia hosted the Socceroos.
Coming into this match both teams are on six points only separate by goal a goal differential.
This fixture was imperative for either team to bag the points but the task was difficult for Ange’s men as they entered a very hostile King Abdullah stadium that was packed to the rafters.
Starting XI; Ryan, Milligan; Sainsbury; Spiranovic; Smith; Kruse; Jedinak; Mooy; Rogic; Leckie; Juric
The starting XI chosen by Postecoglou is a very young and versatile team filled with players capable of changing the game, creating opportunities and putting in good defensive shift. However, the match was far few in between of just that.
That match kicked off and the stadium was in raptures and Saudi Arabia started the game off the get go at full intensity. Five minutes gone and the Socceroos were finding it difficult early on to get a foothold on the game.
The match throughout it’s entirety had that feel to it. KSA controlled large parts of the game, individual players were able to, with individual brilliance turn and trick their way out of tight spaces; from the back, midfield and in the final third.
The Socceroos’ midfield on paper was one to be feared with the solidity of Jedinak, the vision of Mooy and the movement and skill of Rogic though these factors did not resonate throughout the entire 90 minutes when they should have.
Mile Jedinak had one of those games where he did not look his regular self. Instances where he was beaten off the ball, easily turned and beaten and misplaced passes were strange to witness.
Overall in this first half the Socceroos were not at their ‘Asian Champions’ best, going forward quality was lacking in the final third with misplaced passes, crosses too high or too long and it just was not clicking.
It only took Saudi Arabia five minutes to go ahead at the King Abdullah Sports City stadium through Taiseer Al Jassam from some good play down the right hand side and quick play in the box and good cut back pass and Taiseer slipped it across Mathew Ryan. 1-0
After the goal it took a while for the Socceroos to gain a grip of the game but the did and when they did it was thanks to players like Rogic who’s plays created chances and proved a real threat. Too, Robbie Kruse was active in the first 45 minutes but he did not look comfortable out there. His crosses lacked quality and it was not the Robbie Kruse we know.
However, two minutes before the break Brad Smith charged forward and in the end smacked his shot on the outside of the post. Soon after an Mooy free-kick resulted in a corner.
Aaron Mooy swung in a delightful cross from the right hand side and found its man in Trent Sainsbury. 1-1
The second half saw no immediate changes from Ange but Saudi Arabia coach jumped as he saw this is a game they can win putting none other than Al Shamrani on 54′.
Since the introduction of the ‘earthquake’ Shamrani, the five minutes of pressure from the hosts led to two chances sprung by the hosts and two great blocks by Spiranovic to save the day.
Ange reacted on 61′ with the introduction of Massimo Luongo taking off Mathew Leckie who had an average game though showed his envious pace.
After a number of failed crosses finally on 71′ Robbie Kruse down the right flank found Tomi Juric at the back post who calmly slotted it in goal. 1-2
The hosts were determined to equalise now with 20 minutes to go. Their pressing and attacks continued and after a nervy moment in the box Mooy was there to clear. Mooy a player who just seems he can do it all.
75′ A rather inventive set piece from the hosts saw a chance luckily finds Al Abid who blasts over the bar.
The pressure from Saudi Arabia finally paid off on 79′ from a real poachers effort re-directs the ball into the back of the net. 2-2
With ten minutes to go it seemed like Saudi Arabia were reeling their next opportunity to get the game winner.
A 1v1 opportunity it fell to Al Muwallad but the Socceroos number 1, Maty Ryan was strong to deny his chance.
The last nine to 10 minutes were relatively bleek to watch with tame efforts from Kruse hitting the side netting and then double substitutions.
The Socceroos spurned three points and at the same time were lucky to come away from this fixture with a point.
Their performance did not resonate with them leaving Jeddah with all the points. Looking like the temperature took a toll can be an excuse but the Socceroos as mentioned did not look comfortable and Saudi Arabia look to heat up Group B.