TOM ROGIC scored a stoppage-time winner for Australia as they overcame Syria 3-2 in the Asian Cup.

The Celtic playmaker’s strike helped his country to the knock-out round of 16 and a clash with either Japan or Uzbekistan on Monday.

Rogic, who has made 45 appearances for the Aussies, netted the crucial strike with a drive from outside the box and he also set up another goal for Chris Ikonomidis in a dramatic encounter.

Delighted Head Coach Graham Arnold hailed the 26-year-old Hoops ace and said: “He’s only going to get better.

“We need to work in a way that Tom is key to what we do with the ball. A lot of times we don’t find him when he should be free.

“When you get him free and you free him up, then he can do anything. He’s a wonderful player and a joy to coach. He’s got such a will and strength to want to play for Australia.

“I’ve learnt from him in the past that when you give him freedom and make him smile, anything is possible.”

Skipper Mark Millgan, of Hibs, said: “That’s what Tom gets paid for, isn’t it? That’s what we expect from him and he’s brought those expectations on himself because he’s a wonderful player.

“He’s the type of player that when he’s on he lifts players around him, as well. I’m happy Tom’s playing well. He’s got a lot of experience under his belt now.

BY THE LEFT…Tom Rogic is goalscoring form for the Hoops against Dundee. Pic: Geo.

“He’s been at a very big club for a long time. They showed how important he is to them when this tournament started and their reaction. That’s how important he is to us as well.”

Winger Awer Mabil also joined in the praise of the Celt when he added: “He’s an amazing player. I just have to run and he will find me. It’s a pleasure to play with him.

“He’s a big, big player. It’s really enjoyable to be part of this group. And it goes for if I have the ball, also, he will also do something so I can find him.

“We’re all clicking up in the front and we’re all having fun. It’s exciting for Australian fans.”

Meanwhile, Brendan Rodgers faces being without the Wizard of Oz for more matches when the team kick off the return to action on Saturday with a Scottish Cup meeting with Airdrie in the east end of Glasgow.

The Asia Cup runs until February 1 and will rule Rogic out of the Cup-tie against the League One side plus he could also sit out the Premiership encounters against St Mirren, Hamilton Accies and a double-header with St Johnstone.

The visit of Hibs on February 6 looks a more likely date for the player’s return.

Rogic broke a bone in his hand in the tournament’s opening game against Jordan, but has been able to play with a protective cast.

The smooth operator was forced to miss the champions’ confrontation at Ibrox before the turn of the year when gaffer Arnold insisted he join up with the international squad before a friendly against Oman.

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