BRAD Smith's hopes of reaching next year's World Cup in Russia took a hit after Australia conceded a late equaliser against Syria.

The Cherries star was an unused substitute as the Socceroos were held to a 1-1 draw in the play-off first-leg clash in Malaysia today.

Mathew Leckie had put the Socceroos in front six minutes before half-time, only for Omar Al Soma to level with a hotly-disputed penalty late in the second half.

The second leg is due to take place on Tuesday and the winner will face the fourth-best team from the North America, Central America and Caribbean qualifying section, again over a two-leg play-off, for the right to go to the World Cup.

Elsewhere, Mark Travers kept a clean sheet but Ireland Under-19s made a disappointing start to their European Championship first-phase qualifiers.

Tom Mohan's men were held to a 0-0 draw by Azerbaijan on Wednesday.

Cherries youngster Travers, currently on loan at Southern Premier Weymouth, played 90 minutes at Waterford Regional Sports Centre.