The Socceroos have claimed eight consecutive wins in World Cup qualifying for the first time in history, after beating Jordan 1-0 in a fiery encounter.
The roars of joy when the full-time whistle sounded showed just how much the result meant to the Australians, who progress to the final stage of qualifying for the 2022 Qatar World Cup having swept Group B.
In oppressively hot conditions in Kuwait City – 41 degrees at kick-off – and on a pitch which suffered from hosting several matches in the past fortnight, tempers frayed as Jordan’s Mousa Al-Tamari was sent off in the dying minutes for shoving Australia’s Aziz Behich in the face.
That stopped any hope of a Jordan comeback, after towering defender Harry Souttar finally broke the deadlock when he powered home a header from a corner with 15 minutes to spare. It was the hulking Stoke City defender’s sixth goal in five international games.
Behich had been fouled heavily by Ihsan Haddad, who butted heads with the Australian but managed to avoid a send-off. But Al-Tamari raced in then shoved Behich’s head, leaving his side a man down for the final four minutes of regulation time.
It was enough for Arnold’s Socceroos to hold on for a hard-fought victory to complete a dream stage of the World Cup qualification campaign.
Souttar said: “You can see from the smile on my face, I’m absolutely delighted. Forget about the goal, it’s all about the performance and the three points there. Before we came into this camp we had four wins, we were desperate to win another four, to win all eight and that’s what we’ve done.
“I think you can see tonight how much it meant for all the boys out there.”
The Socceroos’ 3-0 victory over Nepal over the weekend, which came off the back of two comprehensive victories over Chinese Taipei and Kuwait, meant Australia had already booked their place in the next round of World Cup qualifying and sealed top spot in Group B.
Jordan, expected to qualify from the group easily, had surprisingly struggled for results and were left needing to beat the Socceroos to have a chance of progressing. Their desperation to win resulted in a gripping encounter as the Socceroos attacks were repelled time and again by a Jordan side that sat deep in defence then hit back with pace and directness on the counter.
The Socceroos were handed a sixth-minute scare when a free kick bended mere inches wide of the post, after Martin Boyle was forced to track a dangerous darting run through the midfield and bring down Mousa Al-Tamari near the edge of the box – earning himself a yellow card in the process.
That came after Jackson Irvine unleashed a rocket towards goal from the other box after an incisive run of his own just one minute earlier.
The match quickly became a scrappy affair, with neither side able to gain supremacy, though the Socceroos had a marginally better share of possession and territory.
Martin Boyle unleashed a scorching free kick in the 27th minute which struck the support-posts behind the goal after sizzling just wide of the uprights.
The game was halted for a drinks break at the half-hour mark, but just four minutes after the restart there was a scary incident when Trent Sainsbury copped a free-kick to the face as he jumped with the wall to block the attempted shot. Sainsbury collapsed but was allowed to play on.
Ajdin Hrustic drove a corner onto the head of set-piece weapon Harry Souttar, but the towering defender failed to control his attempt from the front post.
Chances were at a premium, with Jordan seeking to counter-attack with pace, and a host of fouls causing a stop-start tempo to the clash.
Australia’s Ajdin Hrustic was the only player to manage a shot on target in the opening half.
Graham Arnold wasn’t all too happy with his Socceroos in the first half against Jordan.
Source: FOX SPORTS
Seven minutes into the second half, a power outage in the stadium saw some lights go out and the television feed to world broadcasters cut.
The game was allowed to play on, with Socceroos defender Trent Sainsbury having the best chance of the second half when he ghosted in to the back post on a long-range free kick whipped in from the sideline, only to send his unmarked header just past the post.
James Holland and Adam Taggart emerged off the bench with just over 20 minutes remaining, as Jamie Maclaren and Kenny Dougall were taken off the park. And Holland nearly made an immediate impact five minutes later, rifling a shot against the post as the Socceroos launched a series of balls into the box.
But Souttar’s back-post header immediately after more than made up for Holland missing out on a maiden Socceroos goal.
Things exploded into life in the dying minutes as Jordan’s Ihsan Haddad heavily fouled Aziz Behich as the fullback raced down the sideline, causing an affray. Haddad then butted heads with Behich as the referee delivered a caution to the Jordan winger.
But things devolved further, as Mousa Al-Tamari charged in and pushed Behich’s face with an outstretched hand. Al-Tamari was sent off, but Haddad managed to avoid a second yellow card – in large part due to VAR not being in use.