Kuwait and Australia have played out a 2-2 draw in their Asian Cup qualifier in Kuwait City.
In an absorbing and entertaining contest, the home side hit back twice on the stroke of half-time to cancel out Australia’s two early goals with the result keeping the teams in the top two spots on the Group B table – both on eight points with Oman breathing down their necks on seven.
Kuwait: 2 (Hamed Al Enezi ‘39, Yousef Nasser ‘43)
Australia: 2 (Luke Wilkshire ‘3, Dean Heffernan ‘5)
Venue: Al Kuwait Sports Club Stadium
Crowd: approx. 18,000
The Socceroos got off to a dream start when left-back Dean Heffernan threw a long ball into the heart of the Kuwaiti defence where the ball fell for Luke Wilkshire who struck a swerving left-footer into the back of the net and just two minutes later they were 2-0 up when Nick Carle curled a free-kick into the area which was poorly dealt with and Heffernan was on hand to tuck it away for his first goal in Australian colours.
Despite the deficit, the Kuwait crowd continued to show their support as the players strived to get back into the contest.
The visitors dealt well with anything the Kuwaitis threw at them for the next 35 minutes but could not hold out the home side when substitute Hamed Al Enezi latched onto a long ball following a Simon Colosimo mistake and he drilled a low shot from a tight angle past Craig Moore and goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic to get his side back into the match.
Moments later, Kuwait were back on level terms when Bader Al Mutwa sent a pinpoint pass through the Australian defence and Yousef Nasser finished neatly with his left-foot to make it 2-2 at the main break in an enthralling contest.
Kuwait had the most of the play in the first ten minutes of the second half and almost pinched the lead when Hamed Al Enezi’s shot from outside the area trickled past Galekovic’s right post, just inches away.
It was then time for Pim Verbeek to make a change as Nikita Rukavytsya came on for just his second cap as Perth Glory’s Mile Sterjovski made way on the hour-mark.
The contest continued to pulsate throughout as both sides attempted to find a winner as Australia struggled to find each other with their passes whilst Kuwait were trying to get them on the counter-attack whenever the opportunity presented itself.
With nine minutes remaining, Galekovic was on hand to make a vital save when Hamad Al Enezi’s bouncing shot from close range was held onto safely by the Adelaide United man.
Kuwait looked dangerous late in the piece as the Socceroos could not conjure anything of note in their forward third and had to settle for a point after looking the goods early.