Australia, Saudi Arabia in 0-0 draw in World Cup qualifying

SYDNEY (AP) — Australia and Saudi Arabia played to an often ill-tempered, rainy 0-0 draw on Thursday in the Socceroos' first home match in more than two years.

After winning the opening three games of the current qualifying stage, and 11 World Cup qualifiers in a row, Australia has now dropped five points from the last two, including a loss to Japan in the previous match.

The result was better for Saudi Arabia, winning its first point on Australian soil, to stay atop the group with 13 points from five games. Australia has 10 from five matches and Japan six from four games.

Australia plays China on Tuesday in the United Arab Emirates and Socceroos coach Graham Arnold said a win then would leave his team in a “fantastic position."

“Overall we played well, we created chances but they didn’t go in,” Arnold said. “Then a little bit of frustration set in with the time wasting and tactics from the Saudis. We have to learn to be better with that because that’s when they came up with their chances.”

Australia had the better of the chances, although goalkeeper Mat Ryan was forced to produce three good second-half saves. The Socceroos lost Stoke defender Harry Souttar to a knee injury with 12 minutes left in the game.

Neither team had a shot on target in the first half.

Before Thursday, Australia’s last game at home was a 5-0 win over Nepal in October 2019, when Jamie Maclaren scored three goals and Souttar netted twice on debut.

The Socceroos have been forced to play all of their games abroad since then because of Australia’s closed borders and COVID-19 restrictions.

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