Australia has become the first nation to register 11-straight wins in a single FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign after defeating Oman 3-1 at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar on Friday morning (AEDT).
Goals from Awer Mabil, Martin Boyle and Mitchell Duke secured a crucial three points for the Socceroos, who sit equal top of Group B alongside Saudi Arabia.
With just under ten minutes played, Mabil opened the scoring with the first shot of the game as he pounced on a loose ball in the box and slammed a powerful shot into the net after the Omani defence failed to clear Jackson Irvine’s curled cross from the right.
As the game resumed, a slip from Irvine in midfield allowed the ball to be played out to Zahir Sulaiman Abdullah Al Aghbari on the edge of the penalty area, who almost equalised straight away as he forced Mat Ryan to acrobatically tip the ball over the bar.
Mabil’s goal completely open up the match as both sides created a number of chances throughout the opening twenty minutes of the first half.
In his 50th match for the Socceroos, Tom Rogic forced a smart save from Faiz Al-Rushaidi in the Oman goal just minutes later. Aziz Behich was afforded space to slip the ball inside for Rogic on the left, who burst into the penalty area and unleashed a powerful shot that Al-Rushaidi tipped over the bar.
However, anything that the Socceroos tried, Oman matched. Ryan was again on hand to save Australia from conceding as Al Aghbari pounced on a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area and fired a low driven shot for Ryan to palm away at full stretch.
But Ryan could not do anything about Oman finding the equaliser just before the half an hour mark. The Socceroos’ seven-and-a-half-hour streak without conceding was broken by Al Mandhar Al Alawi, who showed composure in the box to touch the ball away from Australia’s defenders and rifle a shot past a helpless Ryan in goal.
Two minutes after being instrumental in Oman’s goal and first-half chances, Al Aghbari was stretchered off after a clash with Irvine looked to have seriously damaged the left-winger’s shoulder.
Both teams probed for a late goal before the break, but it was not to be and the first half ended all square.
With all to play for in the second half, the Socceroos once again claimed an early lead. Boyle continued his fine goalscoring form as he headed home a parried Adam Taggart shot from close range.
Five minutes later, Boyle was in the action again as he was brought down in the box with a push in the back but the referee and VAR waved away Australia’s claims for a penalty.
Just after the hour mark, Ryan was called into action by Al Alawi, who nearly doubled his tally and with another equaliser. The Omani midfielder managed to get in behind Harry Souttar in the penalty area after a long ball, but he was not afforded enough time to pull the trigger and Ryan smothered the chance.
In a golden opportunity for Australia to double their lead with 20 minutes to go, Mabil almost found his second goal of the match as he found himself unmarked at the back post, but he could not direct his header goalward.
Another header went begging ten minutes later, this time it was Duke, who rose above his defender and directed his shot to the wrong side of the post after Fran Karacic expertly found the Fagiano Okayama striker with a superb cross from the right.
However, the missed opportunity did not break the confidence of Duke, who with minutes remaining, secured the three points for the Socceroos with a tidy finish inside the six-yard box after he was again picked out by Karacic.
Australia travels to Japan for their next match on Tuesday night (AEDT) with the opportunity to seal six huge points that would go a long way towards securing passage to our nation’s fifth-straight FIFA World Cup Finals.