A magnificent performance by Iraqi midfielder Nashat Akram ensured the continuation of Australia’s winless run at Bangkok’s Rajamangala National Stadium, as Iraq earned a whopping 3 – 1 victory in their Group A 2007 Asian Cup match on Friday.
|Iraq's players celebrate after scoring a goal against Australia|
The Al Shabab Club’s Nashat Akram gave the Iraqis a half-time lead with a powerful free-kick in the 23rd minute. Australia’s skipper Mark Viduka restored parity with a header two minutes after the break.
But Iraq was put in front when a lay-off by Akram left a simple task to Hawar Mulla Mohammed, who had only keeper Mark Schwarzer to beat before substitute Karrar Jassim scored to restore the Iraqis’ two-goal advantage.
Both sides looked at ease in the opening, and it was the Australians who had the first chance to score in the third minute when Mark Bresciano missed a left wing cross from Harry Kewell.
Iraq replied seven minutes later when Captain Younis Mahmoud skillfully held off Brett Emerton before firing in a powerful shot that was tipped away for a corner by Aussie keeper Schwarzer.
It was the Australians’ undoing in the 23rd minute after Iraq took the lead from a set-piece. Nashat Akram’s free-kick was whipped directly into the net as Schwarzer was put off by the run of Saleh Sadir who was credited with the goal but didn’t appear to get the final touch.
Australia’s misery could have been compounded when Patrick Kisnorbo’s error gave possession to Younis Mahmoud who passed it to Saleh Sadir in the penalty box.
But as the Al Ansar midfielder attempted to extend the lead, his effort was denied by a superb tackle by Luke Wilkshire.
Australia’s equalizer came just two minutes after the restart and it was Viduka who beat goalkeeper Noor Sabri with a header from an Emerton right wing cross.
Australia was in total control but Iraq regained the lead in the 59th minute when Nashat delicately squeezed the ball through the Australian defense to Hawar, who flicked the ball past the advancing Schwarzer.
Iraq should have made it three two minutes later when Nashat broke behind the Australian rear guard and slipped the ball to Haider Abdull Amer, but the defender blasted it sky high.
The tired Australians were becoming increasingly frustrated and Iraq killed off the game four minutes from the end.
Lucas Neill’s poor clearance found the feet of Younis Mahmoud. The Iraq skipper’s shot was deflected by a West Ham United defender into the path of Karrar Jassim, who tapped the ball into an empty net.
Iraq need only a draw in their final Group A game against Oman to advance to the last eight, while Australia must beat co-hosts Thailand to stay alive in the competition.