|By JOHN GRECO
Goal-scoring hero Tim Cahill says there is no need to panic despite Australia's requiring some last-ditch heroics to salvage a draw with Oman to keep their World Cup qualifying on track.
The Socceroos appeared headed for an embarrassing and costly defeat on the road to Brazil when they trailed 2-0 early in the second-half to the 105th-ranked minnows.
But just as he has done on so many occasions in the past, Cahill popped up with a trademark headed goal to get Australia back into the contest before a Brett Holman bullet salvaged a draw five minutes from time.
It was a horribly disjointed performance by Holger Osieck's side in the first half especially, punctuated by sloppy passing and poor options.
With captain Lucas Neill suspended, Osieck turned to Michael Thwaite and Robbie Cornthwaite in central defence, while giving James Holland the nod over Mark Bresciano in midfield.
While the less experienced members of the side failed to deliver on the big stage, Cahill said it was important to stay positive and look forward with optimism.
"We have to stick together. We got a point and we have to drive and go again," Cahill said afterwards.
"This is a young team besides me, [Mark Schwarzer] and [Luke Wilkshire] who are the old timers.
"It's not the same team as was before but I stay confident. We've just got to keep going.
"We trained well all week but it's all about producing. It's not going to happen straight away but we can't panic
"We have to stick to what we're doing. It's didn't work in the first half so we need to give a bit more."
Osieck, relieved to have seen his side fight back for a point, credited his experienced contingent for turning match around but admitted he wanted more from the youngsters.
"I must admit I had expected a lot more from some of the younger guys that I tried to promote and showed some good faith in... but, well, you can see. It's different," the Socceroos boss said.
"When people want to see young people rejuvenation and what it does in reality.
"They are not there [yet], although they are considered high fliers. But when you fly high, you land very harsh on the ground."
It was the old guard that ensured the Socceroos would not slump to the catastrophic defeat that looked so likely when Abdul Aziz and a Mile Jedinak own goal had them 2-0 down on 50 minutes.
But Cahill, who gave Oman's problems in the air all night, responded immediately with a towering header before Holman completed the comeback late on.
Asked about Cahill's heroics and performance, Osieck said: "Tim did exactly what I expected of him.
"He was a permanent threat up front, especially in the air and he displayed his ability in timing and jumping.
"It was so important for us in the end."
Socceroos attacker Alex Brosque added: "He's done it so many times.
"To have someone like him is incredible for the team but I guess you don’t want to have to rely on that all the time.
"The way the game went tonight it needed something special and he's always the guy to deliver."
Oman coach Paul Le Guen admitted his side had struggled to cope with Cahill, who he considers to be one of the best players in the world in the air.
And after keeping their qualifying hopes well and truly alive with a well-earned draw, Le Guen believes his side is starting to bridge the gap on Asian powerhouses Australia and Japan.