Australia players slam penalty decision that led to draw with Syria
Australia players slammed the penalty decision that allowed Syria to secure a 1-1 draw in Thursday's key World Cup qualifying playoff.
Leading 1-0 five minutes from the end of regular time, the Socceroos were on the brink of winning the first leg in Malaysia until Mathew Leckie leapt to compete with Omar Al Soma for a cross into the box.
The contact was enough for Iranian referee Alireza Faghani to point to the spot, much to the chagrin of forward Robbie Kruse and his teammates.
"It was evident to everyone it wasn't a penalty," Kruse said. "He's won the header clear as day and he's headed it outside the box. The guy is 6-foot-5 and has fallen down quite easily."
"You expect that from this referee, we've had him before. I think he wanted to give it as soon as he made contact. It's disappointing and we didn't deserve it."
Leckie himself described the decision as "very poor" and said a request for an explanation elicited threats of a second yellow card.
"It was just a cross and I thought I just went up fairly and won the header," Leckie said.
"It wasn't like I [made] body contact and tried to put him off, I actually won the header. I don't know what went through the ref's mind to give a penalty.
"Everyone's pissed off about the whole situation because I think everyone in the world that watched the game knows it wasn't a penalty."
Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou was equally baffled by the call, which was widely panned on social media.
"I don't have the hindsight of replays, but when a guy gets up and just wins a header I'm a bit bemused," Postecoglou said. "But it is what it is."
Kruse praised Australia's display and backed them to get the job done with a home-ground advantage at ANZ Stadium on Tuesday and advance to a final two-legged encounter with the fourth-placed CONCACAF nation.
"Our first half was excellent, we had to chance in the second half to kill the game where we've hit the post two times in a row," Kruse said. "They were always going to have phases in the game where they have chances.
"They've got a good striker and a couple of tricky attackers as well. And they play every ball long so they're always going to get chances and second balls. We defended them really well."