AFC Asian Cup: Jordan, Australia advance, Palestine’s fate depends

Abu Dhabi, Jan 15 (Xinhua) Jordan topped Group B in AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 after a 0-0 draw with Palestine on Tuesday, while Australia came second in the same group and booked a seat in the knockout stage after a dramatic 3-2 win over Syria.

The Group B final standings witnessed Jordan with seven points, followed by Australia with six points, Palestine two and Syria one.
As best four third finishers from six groups can enter the round of 16 knockouts, Palestine’s fate depends on the final results of other groups. 
At the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, Jordan started brightly with Mahmoud Wadi deflecting Baha’ Abdel Rahman’s free-kick narrowly wide and Ahmad Ersan forcing goalkeeper Rami Hamada into action inside the first five minutes.

Despite Jordan’s early dominance, Palestine came close to breaking the deadlock in the 17th minute when custodian Amer Shafi produced a fine fingertip save to keep out Abdallatif Al Bahdari’s flicked attempt from a Tamer Seyam corner.

Abdel Rahman then flashed a shot inches over the bar from distance in the final moments of the first half, Jordanian captain Shafi acrobatically punched clear with striker Mahmoud Wadi lurking.

After the interval, Abdallatif Al Bahdari’s towering header from another Seyam set-piece was gathered on his line by Shafi, and Ersan’s 68th minute piledriver at the other end brought another super stop from Hamada.
At Al Ain’s Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium, Tom Rogic’s injury time stunner earned Australia a dramatic 3-2 win over Syria.

The Celtic midfielder struck from 25 yards to finally beat a determined Syrian side, who looked set to secure a point for new coach Fajr Ebrahim and his team, and maintain their slim hopes of a place in the next phase.
Rogic’s goal not only ensured Australia progressed to the next round, but also sent the Syrians packed, who finished bottom of the group after Palestine picked up a point in their meeting with Jordan.

Syria looked set to earn a draw after twice coming from behind to level, with Omar Khrbin cancelling out Awer Mabil’s opener and Omar Al Soma netting from the penalty spot after Chris Ikonomidis had put Australia back in front.
The Syrians, buoyed by the arrival of new coach Ebrahim, had the better of the opening exchanges and, with 12 minutes gone, Al Soma gave Graham Arnold’s team a fright when he headed over. Just seconds later Khrbin shot across the face of goal after a poor clearance by Mat Ryan ended up at the feet of the former AFC Player of the Year.

Australia were struggling to deal with the intensity of the Syrians and, on the half-hour mark, Embrahim’s team thought they had taken the lead when Mouaiad Al Ajaan’s free-kick from distance found its way past Ryan, only for referee Cesar Ramos to rule it out for a foul on Mark Milligan in the build-up.

That let-off gave the Australians a boost. In the 41st minute, Mabil ensured the Australian pressure paid off with a perfect curling left foot strike that gave Alma no chance as the ball arced its way inside the keeper’s right post.
The lead lasted less than two minutes, as Al Ajaan seared down the left flank beyond Rhyan Grant and sent in a cross that Khrbin headed goalward. Ryan made the initial save, but Khrbin converted the rebound.

Nine minutes after the restart, Australia were back in front. Rogic’s sweeping ball from the left slid past Hussein Al Jwayed to land at the feet of Ikonomidis, who steered his effort over the line despite a despairing dive from Omro Al Midani. The Syrian defence thought Al Midani had kept the ball from crossing the line, but referee Cesar Ramos awarded the goal to the Socceroos.

Substitute Giannou Apostolos then hit the post 15 minutes from time as the Socceroos sought to kill the game, and five minutes later Syria were level after referee Ramos pointed to the spot and Al Soma converted.
The points looked destined to be shared until Rogic intervened three minutes into added time with a superb strike, beating Alam to his left with a blistering effort from distance.

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