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

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.

Saudi Arabia’s young athletes looking to shine at Youth Olympics

Updated 15 October 2018

Saudi Arabia’s young athletes looking to shine at Youth Olympics

BUENOS AIRES: Fresh from watching Ali Yousef Al-Othman clinching Saudi Arabia’s first medal at the ongoing Youth Olympic Games, the country’s quartet of athletics participants will enter the second week of competition in South America buoyed by strong performances in the opening heats and aiming to add to the country’s success. 


Al-Othman secured bronze in the men’s -85kg weightlifting on Friday night just hours after Ahmed Al-Marwani and Raghad Bu Arish had impressed on the Youth Olympic Park’s nearby racing track.  Alongside Prince Fahd bin Juluwe bin Abdulaziz bin Musaed, the head of the delegation, both Bu Arish and Al-Marwani watched from inside the weightlifting as their flag was raised in recognition of Al-Othman’s achievement. 


Bu Arish, the first Saudi female to compete at a Youth Olympics, had earlier completed her women’s 100-metre heat in 14.68 seconds, finishing seventh. Wearing a white headscarf, the 16-year-old finished 3.29s behind heat-winner Gabriela Suarez of Ecuador and 3.51s behind the fastest female overall, Nigeria’s Rosemary Chukama.


“I am the first girl from Saudi Arabia to come to the Youth Olympics, so I am so proud of myself and my family,” Bu Arish, with a tear slowly rolling down her face and her father and brother watching on from the stands, told Arab News. “I was very nervous, but I feel very happy. I trained at the organised camp and also competed in many races to prepare for this moment. It is so nice to know you are competing in the Olympic Games.”


Bu Arish will contest the 100m finals on Monday at 16.05 local time (22.05 Mecca) and Yousef Jalaiden, the chef de mission for the Saudi delegation, expects the 16-year-old to be the first of many Saudi women competing at this level.


“I think it’s great,” he said. “We have many female athletes competing in different sports and I think, in five years from now, we are going to surprise the world with how many women we have competing in sports. We had two girls at the Asian Games playing badminton, but these things take time. It’s a gradual process.”


Shortly after Bu Arish, Al-Marwani contested the men’s 100m, finishing third in his heat with a time of 10.94s. His result placed him 0.38s behind outright leader Luke Davids of South Africa, but ahead of Iran’s Mahdi Rezaei who shares an identical personal best of 10.81s. He will now contest the final heat on Tuesday, although a medal is unlikely.


Jalaiden is more confident of a medal in 400m Hurdles, where Mohammed Al-Muawi qualified for the finals, finishing second in his heat behind Hungary’s Daniel Huller. The 17-year-old’s recorded time of 52.76 set a new personal best by more than half a second and placed him just 0.78s behind Huller. The result was considerably more impressive given four athletes in Al-Muawi’s heat had better form, posting season bests that eclipsed his own. He will race again on Tuesday with Saudi chiefs hopeful of doubling their medal haul.


“To be honest, we have achieved everything we expected so far,” said Jalaiden. “For example, in weightlifting, we expected to have a bronze and we got it. In others, we expected to leave with nothing and that’s what’s happened. I think we are on the right track. For the week to come, I hope we can get a medal in the 400m hurdles and also karate. For karate, we are almost sure and in the 400m we will see on Tuesday how we get on.”


Mohammed Al-Assiri is the karateka the Saudi delegation are pinning their hopes on. He will begin his Kumite -61kg campaign on Wednesday after successfully negotiating the qualification event in Croatia this past summer, Fayez Al-Subaie, meanwhile, will contest the Men’s Cross Country on Monday after finishing 15th in the 3000m.