Socceroos back on track with Iraq win
Iraq's national team player Ahmed Ibrahim, right, challenges Tim Cahill. AP Photo/Osama Faisal
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Tim Cahill and Archie Thompson have put Australia’s World Cup qualifying campaign back on track by scoring late in a well-deserved 2-1 win over Iraq in Doha.
The Socceroos left it late at the Grand Hamad Stadium with Cahill and Thompson’s goals coming in the final 10 minutes of the match after Ala’a Abdulzehra opened the scoring in the 72nd minute.
It looked like being a painful night for the Socceroos until man of the match Cahill climbed high from a Matt McKay corner to produce a powerful header that was too good for Iraq goalkeeper Noor Sabri.
The sighs of relief in the Australian camp turned to jubilation four minutes later when substitute Tommy Oar produced an inviting ball for fellow replacement Thompson to head home in front of a small but vocal crowd.
With Oman doing Australia a favour by defeating Jordan 2-1, the Socceroos now sit in second place in their group on goal difference with four matches to play next year, including three home fixtures.
The top two sides from each group qualify for Brazil with the third-placed team forced to run the gauntlet against another Asian team and the fifth-placed South American team.
Australia will be without skipper Lucas Neill and Carl Valeri for their next qualifier against Oman on March 26 in Sydney after both picked up yellow cards on the night.
In warm conditions, Socceroos coach Holger Osieck did not make his first substitution until the 75th minute but the decision to bring on the fresh legs of Thompson and Oar proved inspired.
Midfielder Mark Bresciano, who only lasted an hour in total in the previous two qualifiers, was benched in one of three changes from the side that lost 2-1 to Jordan in Amman last month.
He was not used on the night.
The Socceroos had the better of play in the opening half with Robbie Kruse creating havoc down the right side.
In the 19th minute, he produced a weaving run and put the ball on a tee for Cahill but the striker scuffed his shot from close range.
Nine minutes later, the lively Cahill found space and struck a long range left-foot shot that needed to be pushed away by the Iraq goalkeeper.
The Socceroos continued to look more likely to score in the second half with Mile Jedinak firing wide from just outside the area in the 54th minute.
Two minutes later, Kruse had a golden opportunity to open the scoring but somehow fired wide from close range following an excellent ball from the impressive McKay.
A minute later Neill had a nervous moment after pulling back Younus Mahmood.
The Iraq striker looked to be sprinting clear of Neill onto a long ball but the skipper stopped his progress.
Neill received a yellow card but was possibly a touch fortunate not to be handed a straight red from referee Lee Min Hu for being the last defender.
As Australia pushed forward, Iraq struck on the break with substitute Ala’a neatly slotting the ball past Mark Schwarzer.
However, there was a late twist with Cahill and Thompson producing the telling blows in a valuable away win for Australia.
2014 World Cup Standings – Group B – Final Round of Asian qualifying after this morning’s game:
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