Al-Soma’s late penalty kick gives Syria 1-1 draw against Australia

Omar Al-Soma of Syria, center, heads the ball against Australia players during the 2018 World Cup qualifying football match between Syria and Australia at the Hang Jebat Stadium in Malacca on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 05 October 2017
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Al-Soma’s late penalty kick gives Syria 1-1 draw against Australia

MALACCA: Omar Al-Soma won a late penalty and converted from the spot to give Syria a 1-1 draw with Australia on Thursday and keep the war-torn country’s World Cup hopes alive.
Syria scored in the 85th minute after Mathew Leckie was penalized for his aerial challenge on Al-Soma.
The Syrians, who have never before qualified for a World Cup, are facing Australia in a two-leg Asian playoff for the right to go into an intercontinental playoff. The next stage is a two-leg series against the fourth-place team from the North American region, meaning a possible showdown with the US.
Before that, though, is the return leg of the Asian playoff in Sydney on Tuesday.
The Australians dominated the first half and led 1-0 at the break on neutral ground in Malaysia, where Syria is hosting its World Cup qualifying matches because of the ongoing conflict at home. Robbie Kruse timed his run perfectly to get a touch past goalkeeper Ibrahim Alma in the 40th minute.
The Syrians rallied in the second half, with Al-Soma and Omar Khribin creating opportunities. The tempo lifted further when veteran forward Firas Al-Khatib came on in the 75th.
“I think we were a bit unlucky. I’m not sure what happened with the penalty — maybe it touched his hand? I don’t know,” Australia stand-in captain Mark Milligan said. “We’re very confident. We’ll go home and get them on a good pitch in front of our home fans.”
The Australians had other chances to score, with Milligan’s long-range shot well saved in the 19th and Leckie sending a rushed shot over the bar in the 29th.
Alma made another save in the 42nd on Aziz Behich’s curling right-foot shot. Leckie then leaped high but headed over the bar a minute before the break.
Tomi Juric hit the left post twice within a matter of seconds at the start of the second half, missing a chance to double Australia’s lead.
From then on, though, Syria started gaining the momentum and launching counter-attacks against a tiring Australian defense. And the small but vocal crowd in Malacca was heavily behind the underdogs.
Syria went close with free kicks in the 67th and 68th minutes — the first cleared by Behich off the line and Khribin’s deflection off the defensive wall skewing wide on the second.
A speedy burst and shot from Khatib forced a good, reflex save from Matt Ryan in the 78th and the Australia goalkeeper tipped a hard shot from Moayad Ajan over the bar in injury time to preserve the draw, only moments after Alma made a game-saving stop for Syria at the other end.


Top female tennis player in Arab world out of Bucharest Open

Updated 21 July 2018
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Top female tennis player in Arab world out of Bucharest Open

LONDON: Ons Jabeur’s run at the Bucharest Open ended in disappointment after she was beaten in the last eight by Polona Hercog.
The Tunisia star knocked out former world No. 2 Vera Zvonareva in the last 16 and hopes were high that she could go all the way in a tournament that carries a prize fund of $250,000. But she had to play Hercog, the No. 8 seed from Slovenia, just hours after beating Zvonareva and the challenge took its toll. She lost 6-3, 6-1 in what was her first WTA-level quarterfinal since Taipei early last year.
The run to the business end of the Bucharest Open continues an impressive year for Jabeur. She reached the second round of Wimbledon for the first time ever and also won a ITF $100,000 title in Manchester without dropping a set.

Jabeur is ranked 123rd in the world and climbing. She has earned more than $800,000 in prize money and is regularly gaining entry to the slams. The high point of her career came at the French Open last year when she reached the third round. She also reached the final of the Girls' Singles final at the French Open in successive years, winning the title in 2011.