'No way an Iranian referee should have been in charge'

Leading Australian football commentator Simon Hill says there's no way an Iranian should have been refereeing a Syrian World Cup qualifier.

The Socceroos were left fuming over a penalty decision that denied them a key away victory over Syria on Thursday night.

Leading 1-0 five minutes from the end of regular time, the Socceroos were on the brink of winning the first leg in Malaysia.

FULL REPORT: Controversial penalty sinks Socceroos in Syria

That was until Mathew Leckie leapt to compete with Omar Al Somah for a cross into the box.

Though minimal contact was made, it was enough for Iranian referee Alireza Faghani to point to the spot, and Syria equalised.

Players protest with the referee. Image: Getty

Hill, who was commentating the game for Fox Sports, has since questioned the AFC's decision to put Faghani in charge of the game.

"Mat Leckie’s contact on Omar Al-Somah was minimal, and ref Alireza Faghani shouldn’t have awarded a penalty," Hill wrote for Fox Sports

"Now, I am not advocating a conspiracy here, but I will say this on Faghani.

"With Iran and Syria having close political ties, there is no way the AFC should have put an Iranian ref in charge of this first leg. It’s possible Faghani has made a mistake, or that he truly believes he made the right decision – and in fairness, he’s been a top ref in Asia for many years.

"But by putting him in charge, the AFC have left their official open to a different interpretation – and he should never have been put in that position. Why fly an Iranian ref (and his assistants) halfway across Asia when you could have had a Korean, or Japanese, or South East Asian ref?"

Socceroos star Robbie Kruse was particularly critical of the 'dubious' call.

"It was evident to everyone it wasn't a penalty," Kruse said.

"He's won the header clear as day and he's headed it outside the box.

"The guy is six foot five and has fallen down quite easily."

"You expect that from this referee, we've had him before. I think he wanted to give it as soon as he made contact.

"It's disappointing and we didn't deserve it."

Leckie himself described the decision as "very poor" and said a request for an explanation elicited threats of a second yellow card.

"It was just a cross and I thought I just went up fairly and won the header," Leckie said.

"It wasn't like I (made) body contact and tried to put him off, I actually won the header. I don't know what went through the ref's mind to give a penalty.

"Everyone's pissed off about the whole situation because I think everyone in the world that watched the game knows it wasn't a penalty."

Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou was equally baffled by the call, which was widely panned on social media.

"I don't have the hindsight of replays, but when a guy gets up and just wins a header I'm a bit bemused," Postecoglou said.

"But it is what it is."

with AAP