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Australia beats Syria 3-2, advances to last 16 at Asian Cup

January 15, 2019
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Australian players, background, celebrate in the end of the AFC Asian Cup group B soccer match between Australia and Syria at the Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

AL AIN, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Australia is through to the knockout rounds at the Asian Cup, although the defending champion hasn’t made it look pretty.

Australia needed a stoppage-time goal from Tom Rogic to beat Syria 3-2 on Tuesday after twice letting leads slip. A draw would have been enough to finish runner-up in Group B behind Jordan — which beat Australia 1-0 in their opening game — and the title holder was below its best in eliminating a resolute Syrian team, which finished last in the group.

Palestine’s 0-0 draw with Jordan in Abu Dhabi means it can still reach the round of 16 as one of the four best third-place teams in the new 24-team format.

The Palestinians have two points and will go through if enough low-ranked teams in other groups draw their games on Wednesday and Thursday.

Australia will play the Group F runner-up — 2011 champion Japan or Uzbekistan — next Monday in the first knockout round.

If Australia’s overall play was unconvincing for a team which tested eventual champion France in a 2018 World Cup group game, two of its goals were impressive.

Awer Mabil opened the scoring in the 41st minute with a curling left-foot shot from just outside the penalty area. Rogic decided the game with a powerful left-foot shot from the same distance.

In between, Chris Ikonomidi’s poked shot past Syrian goalkeeper Ibrahim Alma was judged to have crossed the line before Omro Al Midani’s attempted clearance. Without goal-line technology, or video review before the quarterfinal stage, the assistant at the touchline and fifth official beside the goal helped make the decision.

Syria first leveled though Omar Khrbin in the 43rd, and then Omar Al Soma’s 80th-minute penalty kick after he fell to the ground as a cross was swung in from the right flank.

Jordan tops the group with seven points, and next plays a third-place team — Bahrain, Vietnam or Yemen.

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