The Socceroos‘ long-awaited homecoming has been marred by a serious knee injury to star defender Harry Souttar in a drawn World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia.
Despite a flurry of chances for both teams, the goalkeepers at either end stood strong as Australia’s first home match in 763 days ended 0-0 in Parramatta.
The Scottish-born Souttar, who has scored six goals in Australian colours since switching allegiances in 2019, crumpled down in a heap inside Saudi Arabia’s box late in the match after planting his leg awkwardly before being stretchered off.
Souttar’s injury could not come at a worse time, with the 23-year-old widely linked to an English Premier League move after a strong couple of seasons for Championship side Stoke City.
Following his side’s frustrating draw, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold expressed his disappointment at the injury to Souttar.
“It’s very serious,” he told reporters.
“At this moment I’m really down and devastated for Harry. I believe he’s the best centre-back in Asia and if it turns out to be a bad injury it’s a blow for Harry and a big blow for us.”
While the scoreline suggested a lifeless contest, it was anything but, as players on both sides came face to face in a number of fiery clashes throughout the match.
In the end, Australia had to be grateful for Mat Ryan who ripped off a trio of saves in the second half to keep the tourists from snatching a maiden win on Australian soil.
Australia was left frustrated by what seemed to be numerous occasions of time-wasting from the tourists, and Arnold said his side had to deal with such tactics in better fashion.
“Overall we played well. We created the chances but they didn’t go in tonight,” he said.
“A little bit of frustration set in with the time-wasting and the tactics from the Saudis, but we’ve got to learn to be better with that because I think that was when they got a couple of their chances.”
The result means that Saudi Arabia retains its top spot in Group B of the World Cup qualifiers, with Australia currently in second place.
Arnold’s side will have a chance to get back on the winners’ list when it takes on China next Wednesday morning at 2:00am AEDT in Sharjah.