A late goal by Ahmed Dalli Hassan helped Syria avoid a home defeat against Uzbekistan as they drew 3-3 with the central Asian side in their final game in the AFC Final Round for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games on Wednesday.
The Syrians had a 2-0 half-time lead at Al Abbasiyyin Stadium thanks to goals just before the break by Majed Al Hajj and Bakri Tarab but found themselves trailing when Farhod Tadjiyev converted a penalty and Vagiz Galiulin scored twice in as many minutes after the break.
But Dalli Hassan struck the equaliser four minutes from time to give the Syrians their fourth draw in six matches as they avoided the wooden spoon in Group B.
The home side dominated play early on although the heavy rain in Damascus prevented both teams from creating any decent threats in the opening half-hour.
The first notable chance fell to the Uzbeks on 33 minutes when a fierce drive by Sobir Usmankhodjaev forced Syria goalkeeper Ali Al Holami into a quick reaction save.
However, it was the Syrians who broke the deadlock just three minutes before the break when skipper Majed Al Hajj surged into the Uzbek box and fired a powerful shot into the top corner of the net to make it 1-0.
Two minutes later, Burhan Sahwini’s cross from the right flank was nodded home by Bakri Tarab, giving the Syrians a comfortable two-goal cushion at the break.
The home side very nearly added a third seven minutes after the break when Wael Ayan’s cross was met by a powerful volley from Mohanad Al Ebrahim that was well blocked by Uzbek goalkeeper Aziz Ashurov. However, Ashurov was injured in the process and had to be replaced by Eldor Tadjibaev.
The Uzbeks nearly pulled a goal back on 57 minutes as Timur Yafarov took the ball into the Syrian box and beat goalkeeper Ali Al Holami only to see his shot slam against the left post.
However, the visitors would pull a goal back on the hour after they were awarded a penalty for Al Holami’s foul on Galiulin and Tadjiyev stepped forward to convert from the spot.
Three minutes later, the visitors leveled the score after more good work from Galiulin, who finished off with a well-taken shot.
Just a couple of minutes after that, he celebrated his second of the game and his side’s third of the match with a powerful effort from outside the area.
Stunned into action by Uzbekistan’s quick goals, the Syrians pressed forward again and nearly scored in the 68th minute when Abdulrazzaq Al Housain’s first-time volley from outside the area sailed over the crossbar while Al Hajj fired wide in the 73rd minute.
But the home side’s pressure would eventually pay off four minutes before the end when Al Hajj did well on the right flank before passing the ball to substitute Dalli Hassan, who made no mistake from close range.