Harry Kewell's extra-time winner settles game.
Australia are through to the Asian Cup semi-finals thanks to an extra time winner from Harry Kewell in a hard-fought encounter against Iraq.
The first-half was rather tentative as both sides canceled each other out. Neither team were able to grasp any sort of foothold on the game with much of the play labored in midfield.
There was a sheer lack of goalmouth action and Iraq were nearly contributors to their own downfall as a lackluster 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 on to 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 well to time his run and latch on to 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.
The Socceroos then had a real chance to break the deadlock just after the hour mark but Sasa Ognenovski 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 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 a corner was flicked on by Jedinak with his head and over the bar.
The Aussies were at it again as Kewell’s teasing cross was met by the head of Scott McDonald but only managed to find the side netting when really he should have tested Gassid’s capabilities.
Iraq’s composure let them down as a mix-up in the Australian defense saw them 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.
Both teams were upping the tempo as they sought that elusive goal. A penalty shoot-out 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 Kewell. The Galatasaray star broke Iraqi hearts as he headed in McKay’s dinked cross from the left into Gassid’s bottom left hand corner.Follow Goal.com on to get the latest soccer news directly. Check out Goal.com's page; be part of the best soccer fan community in the world!