Australia, Syria play to 1-1 draw in Asian World Cup qualifying playoff

Matthew Leckie - Australia - Ouday Abdul Jaffal - Syria - fight for a ball in a World Cup qualifying playoff

Australia are in the driver’s seat to reach the World Cup qualifying playoff against the fourth-place finisher in the CONCACAF Hexagonal after notching a valuable away goal in a 1-1 draw against Syria on Thursday.

The Socceroos took the lead in the 40th-minute through Robbie Kruse and held their 1-0 advantage until the 85th, when Omar al-Somah converted a controversial penalty to pull Syria level. As has been the case for all their World Cup qualifiers, Syria “hosted” the match in Malaysia due to the ongoing civil war in their country.

The two nations are contesting a home-and-home playoff for a spot in next month’s intercontinental playoff against a CONCACAF representative for one berth in Russia. The countries will play the second leg of their series on Tuesday in Sydney.

The US are currently in fourth in the Hexagonal heading into their final two Hex matches against Panama on Friday (7 pm ET; ESPN2, Univision, UDN) and at Trinidad & Tobago on Tuesday. Panama are one point ahead of the Americans in third place, while Honduras are tied with the US on points but sit in fifth due to a tiebreaker.