Extra-time winner via Harry Kewell settles game...
Australia are through to the Asia Cup semi-final's thanks to an extra time winner from Harry Kewell.
The first-half was rather tentative as both sides cancelled each other out. In truth neither team was able to grasp any sort of foothold on the game with much of the play laboured in midfield.
There was a sheer lack of goalmouth action and Iraq were nearly contributors to do their own downfall as a lacklustre back pass via Samal Saeed saw Matt McKay sneak in and nearly seize the opportunity only to be denied by the bravery of Mohammed Gassid.
The two best opportunities of the half came within minutes of one another as the interval approached. McKay was again involved as he latched onto a terrific through ball from Mile Jedinak and the front-man’s pace took him away from the defender but fired straight at Gassid just outside the penalty area. Harry Kewell minutes later had a wonderful opportunity to open the scoring as the ball kindly dropped for him just outside the eighteen-yard box but his looping effort had the keeper beaten but the sphere was unable to drop graciously into the net.
The second-half began in the same vein with both sides being rather anxious in their play. Iraq however conjured up the best chance of the game as Emad Mohammed did fantastically well to time his run and latch onto Younis Mahmoud’s diligent through ball but fluffed his lines with the finish and steered the ball wide of Mark Schwarzer’s right-hand post. With chances hard to come by it was a golden opportunity for Wolfgang Sidka’s side.
The Socceroos themselves had a real chance to break the deadlock just after the hour mark. Sasa Ognevovski with more or less a free header from an in swinging corner was unable to steer his headed effort away from Gassis who gracefully caught the ball.
The tension was ever so evident with both sides committing cynical fouls which produced a stop start feel to the game with no fluidity
The Aussie fans had their hearts in their mouth as the conclusion of normal time approached. Substitute Mustafa Karim sneaked in at the near post and fired low via a teasing cross from the left but was denied by the agility of Schwarzer who got down to gather the ball.
With no outright winner in the ninety the game went into extra-time and Australia very nearly seized their chance as Ognenovski’s acrobatic effort from the corner was flicked on by Mile Jedinak with his head and over the bar. The Aussies were at it again on the stroke of half-time as Harry Kewell’s teasing cross was met by the head of Scott McDonald but only managed to find the side netting when really he should of tested Gassid’s capabilities.
Iraq’s composure let them down after the interval as a mix-up in the Australian defence saw the Iraqi’s acquire possession in the final third but an unmarked Karim who was lurking in the penalty area was unable to make anything of a heavily weighted pass.
In truth both teams were upping the tempo as they sought that elusive goal. A penalty-shootout was the last thing both managers wanted and the game became rather end to end with numerous half chances.
Australia with three minutes remaining grabbed the winner thanks to Harry Kewell. The Galatasary star broke Iraqi hearts as he headed in McKay’s dinked cross from the left into Gassid’s bottom left hand corner. Credit to Kewell who timed his run perfectly.