2018 World Cup Qualifying - AFC, Round Three
  • Tomi Juric (69')
  • Mathew Leckie (86')
  • Pokkhao Anan (82')

Australia edge out Thailand to boost World Cup qualification hopes

Mathew Leckie Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Mathew Leckie has given the Socceroos a World Cup qualifying lifeline, striking a late winner to earn Australia a 2-1 win over Thailand.

But whether Leckie's goal -- coming after Tomi Juric's opener and Pokklaw Anan's stunning reply -- is enough to send the Socceroos to Russia next year remains to be seen.

Australia must sweat on the result of the Saudi Arabia-Japan match early on Wednesday morning (AEST), where any win for the home side in Jeddah will send the Green Falcons to the 2018 tournament.

But there was no lack of enterprise on display at AAMI Park, where the Socceroos achieved the result they wanted, but not the scoreline.

On a numbingly cold Melbourne night, Australia laid siege to the Thailand goal.

Ange Postecoglou's side racked up an astonishing 45 shots and had 74 per cent possession but scored just twice.

"It could have been over five [goals] very, very easily," Juric said after the match. "It was just one of those nights where the ball doesn't want to go in.

"A little but frustrating and now leaves us in a position of waiting for another result to go our way which is definitely not what we wanted."

Both Mooy and Tim Cahill, returned to the starting line-up among six changes by Postecoglou, rattled the goalposts in the opening quarter-hour.

What appeared to be a rout in the making quickly turned into a frustrating night for the Socceroos.

Time after time, Australia went forward, only to be thwarted by the Thai rearguard.

Goalkeeper Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool made a string of superb saves, none better than a close-range effort to deny Juric's first-half volley.

The striker finally broke through on 69 minutes, heading home Aaron Mooy's pinpoint cross and sparking a mad scramble to run up the scoreline.

Instead, it was Thailand who stunned Australia on the counter, with Pokklaw thrashing home off the crossbar with eight minutes remaining.

Leckie saved Australia's blushes.

The right-winger jumped on a loose ball and threaded it through a congested box to ensure a Socceroos win.

They must now wait to learn if they will be going to Russia -- or headed for a dreaded two-leg home-and-away qualifying route through Asia and North or Central America.