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FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Asian Qualifiers: Stats Wrap

Saturday, October 7, 2017
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Kuala Lumpur: Syria and Australia delivered a thrilling first leg in their Continental Play-off on the Road to Russia on Thursday with the Socceroos getting the better of the first hour and the Qasioun Eagles coming back strongly in the final 30 minutes as the game finished 1-1.

Before the sides renew acquaintances with each other in the return fixture in Sydney on Tuesday, highlights the stats and facts that stood out from a game that saw the Asian qualifiers continue to produce the goods.

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King of the stats

Yet again, Aaron Mooy excelled in the middle of the park, as his 125 touches and 101 passes – with an 82 percent accuracy rate – were more than anyone else on the pitch. The Huddersfield Town midfielder enjoys the limelight, and there will be no better stage to again showcase his ability than in Sydney on Tuesday.

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Syria strike late yet again

As the game wore on, Syria applied increasing pressure on the Australian backline as they sought an all-important equaliser.

Given that four of Syria’s last eight goals had arrived in stoppage time, the onslaught was to be expected, and Omar Al Soma’s 85th-minute penalty now means 50 percent of the Qasioun Eagles’ 10 goals since the onset of the third round of qualifying have come in the dying moments.

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Aiming for the big man

Robbie Kruse spoke of Syria’s direct approach enabling them to create chances throughout the game and the Australian goal-scorer was backed up by the stats, with the West Asians’ 13 crosses from open play – most of which were directed towards the head of the towering Al Soma – was almost double the seven that the Socceroos delivered into the box.

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Kruse control

A long time had passed since Kruse last scored an international goal, three months short of three years to be precise.

Kruse’s strike, his fifth for Australia, was the first for his country since a 4-0 victory over Oman at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup but, unfortunately for the attacking midfielder, this was the first time he has netted for the Socceroos and they have not gone on to win.

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Fouling around

Omar Khribin’s five fouls conceded was the highest number of the pitch and the Al Hilal forward finally received a booking in the 78th minute for a mistimed challenge on Mark Milligan, who won more fouls (6) than any other player on the pitch.

A busy night’s work

Indeed, Milligan was regularly in the thick of the action, with the combative midfielder’s nine duels won higher than any other player, while he also received a booking on the stroke of half-time.

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Caught in a trap

Syria’s dangerman Al Soma was flagged offside on seven occasions across the 90 minutes.

That was at least three more times than anyone else on the pitch and, more alarmingly, the highest number recorded by any other player since the beginning of the third round of qualifying.

Photos: AFC & Lagardère Sports