Australia keeps World Cup hopes alive

Australia remains in contention for a Women's World Cup quarter-final berth following a slim 3-2 win over Equatorial Guinea Sunday in Bochum, Germany.
Australia Leena Khamis celebrates after scoring against Equatorial Guinea on Sunday. (Frank Augstein/Associated Press)

Australia maintained its chances of reaching the quarter-finals of the Women's World Cup by beating Equatorial Guinea 3-2 Sunday in Germany in a game which will stand out for an amazing penalty incident.

The non-call

Australia's Leena Khanis stared in shock when defender Bruna held the ball in both hands for a couple of seconds in front of Equatorial Guinea's goal — and nothing happened. Khanis pointed to Bruna as she casually dropped the ball. The Australian then looked for the referee and shouted out "handball."

But no penalty was called after Khanis had deflected a ball to the post and Bruna grabbed it. Her arms outstretched in outrage, Khanis and several other Australians sought to confront referee Gyoengyi Gaal.

Khanis had already given the Australians the lead in the eighth minute, and a penalty kick in the 16th could have put the game away for good. Instead, the Africans came back soon afterward when Anonman scored in the 21st minute to tie the game.

Australia coach Tom Sermanni was in a forgiving mood.

"I'll take the referee out of the game; I mean, it's not just about the referees," Sermanni said.

FIFA did not immediately respond to email and telephone messages asking for comment on the handball.

Gaal, a 36-year-old economist and sports manager, has been refereeing for 16 years and officiated the bronze medal game at the last World Cup in China.

— Associated Press

Australia's Leena Khamis scored the opener and then hit the post in the 16th minute. As the ball bounced back, Equatorial Guinea defender Bruna grabbed it with both hands, held it and then casually dropped it again. Australians threw out their arms in amazement when Hungarian referee Gyoengyi Gaal failed to call a penalty.

The Africans came back soon afterward when Anonman scored in the 21st minute, before Australia made the difference with two goals early in the second half through Emily Van Egmond and Lisa De Vanna.

The African rookies kept it tight till the end when Anonman, as on her first goal, robbed Servet Uzunlar and used her fine ball control to pull Equatorial Guinea within one goal in the 83rd minute.

Australia held on and the penalty incident had no impact on the final result.

It left Equatorial Guinea with two losses and on the brink of elimination while Australia can again dream of a quarter-final place after an opening loss to Brazil. Norway plays Brazil for the lead in Group D later Sunday.

In a bruising encounter, Australia had a dream start when Khamis pounced on a rebound goalkeeper Miriam should have held and scored in the 8th.

Early in the second half with the score tied, Khamis set up Van Egmond to score from 10 metres out with a blistering volley in the 48th. As the inexperienced African team sought to regroup, De Vanna put the game beyond doubt, running onto a deep pass from Collette McCallum and slipping it past the out-of-position Miriam.

Equatorial Guinea, ranked 61st and the biggest outsider in the tournament, found it tough to switch from its defensive posture and attack to get back into the game. Anonman was the leading force and, after getting her nation its first two World Cup goals, she almost got it a first World Cup point as well.

Australia now plays Norway in a decisive game next Wednesday.