Australia 2 Iraq 1: Joeys keep quarter-final hopes alive with win over defending champions

Adam Aidil Padali
Australia are back on track in the AFC U-16 Championship, after they edged defending champions Iraq 2-1 in their Group D match on Tuesday.

BY        ZULHILMI ZAINAL       Follow on Twitter

Australia are back on track in the 2018 AFC U-16 Championship, after they edged defending champions Iraq 2-1 in their Group D encounter at the UM Arena, Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

The first half ended in a lively goalless deadlock, but Iraqi midfielder Ali Kadhim Johni was sent off for a second booking a minute before the halftime whistle. Australia capitalised on their extra man advantage in the second half, thanks to Luke Duzel's 67th minute and Noah Botic's 74th minute goals. Abdulrazzaq Subaihawi pulled one back for Iraq from the spot four minutes from time, but they could not find the equaliser.

Both sides made minimal changes to their starting line-ups in the match, despite their contrasting results on matchday one. 

Australia head coach Trevor Morgan swapped goalkeeper Ahmad Mohamed Taleb, who conceded three against South Korea in their 3-0 defeat, for Adam Pavlesic, and defender Jordan Bos for Adam Leombruno. Sporting CP trainee Tristan Hammond started the match again.

Iraq boss Faisal Jebur only benched midfielder Ameer Hnet, who was replaced by Yaseen Hussein. In their previous match, they had edged Afghanistan 2-1.

Needing a win to reignite their qualification chances, Morgan's charges dominated proceedings in the first ten minutes. They almost found an early lead in the fifth minute from a free kick, but the attempt only hit underneath the crossbar, before bouncing out.

In the 28th minute, Noah Botic was put through by a through pass, but couldn't hit the ball with his right foot and sent his shot wide.

When Iraq got their tempo going, the match became a much livelier affair. Both sides were eager to attack, and they were only hampered by their poor finishing and decision-making in the final third.

But Iraq chose the hard way, going down to ten players with a minute left in the first half, afterAli Kadhim Johni received his second booking for a foul.

At the break, it was somehow still goalless.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Jebur instead brought on Hasem Mohammed for Hussein Rasetmee, one forward for another.

Birkan Kidar almost open the scoring in the 52nd minute after he was put through by a teammate, but Iraq custodian Hasan Al-Hamadani made himself big and blocked the midfielder's attempt with his foot.

Still unable to capitalise on their extra man advantage, Morgan brought on Joseph Roddy for forward Joshua Varga, one minute after the hour mark.

It was Iraq who came close to scoring in the 65th minute, when Ali Jasim Elaibi struck from a tight angle inside the Australia penalty box. Thankfully, Australia goalkeeper Pavlesic was more than equal to it.

The deadlock was finally broken two minutes later, when Duzel slammed in Hammond's short cross from left from just outside the Iraqi six-yard box.

They doubled their lead in the 74th minute, through Noah Botic. He was put through by a brilliant chipped through pass by Duzel, and did not miss with his shot into the far bottom corner, past the onrushing goalkeeper.

Iraq pulled one back from the spot with 10 minutes remaining, after a foul in the Australian penalty box. Abdulrazzaq Subaihawi did not take any chances, and simply slam it past the goalkeeper's reach.

Jayden Gorman almost restored their two-goal lead four minutes from time, but his tap-in from just in front of the goalmouth ended up over the crossbar instead, in what looked like a candidate of the miss of the tournament.

Iraqi fans cheered raucously when the referee blew his whistle after Elaibi dropped under a challenge in the box two minutes from time, thinking they had been awarded another penalty, but he was booked for simulation instead.

The match ended in a 2-1 win to the Australians, a huge boost to their quarter-final hopes. They will next take on Afghanistan, while Iraq will face off against South Korea on Friday.


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