Australia knock out holders Iraq

Header from striker Harry Kewell deep into extra time gives Socceroos first Asian Cup semi-final appearance.

    Kewell takes off his shirt in celebration after ending the Iraqis' Asian Cup title defence [AFP]

    A header from Harry Kewell three minutes from the end of extra time gave Australia a 1-0 victory over defending champions Iraq to put the Socceroos in the Asian Cup semi-finals.

    An entertaining match at Al Sadd Stadium in Doha on Saturday looked to be heading to penalties after both sides squandered a number of chances before Kewell was left unmarked to direct his header home after a beautifully flighted ball from Matt McKay.

    Australia, the best FIFA ranked side in the tournament at 26th, will play Uzbekistan in the semi-finals at Qatar's showpiece Khalifa Stadium on Tuesday.

    "We should have done our job in 90 minutes," Australia coach Holger Osieck said.

    "Iraq came on strong in extra time, but we battled through and I'm pleased particularly that Harry Kewell was the one who scored the goal."

    The Socceroos enjoyed the better of the chances in the match with Kewell and left winger McKay wasting two good opportunities in the first half when they both struck shots over the bar.

    Watchful

    Iraq's playmaker Nashat Akram struggled to find space in the opening stages under the watchful gaze of Australia's midfield duo of Mile Jedinak and Carl Valeri but the holders came back into the game in the second half.

    Iraq wasted the best chance of the match in the 55th minute when Emad Mohammed was put clear after a neat through ball from captain Younus Mahmood but the striker angled his shot wide.

    Iraq's Mohammed Kassid continued to be the busier of the two goalkeepers but neither was called upon to make any difficult saves as both sides proved wasteful in attack.

    As the match entered extra time both sides continued to press for a winning goal but Mahmood misjudged his header from close range and Jedinak deflected his team mate Sasa Ognenovski's goal-bound overhead kick over the bar.

    With penalties looming, Kewell stole away from his marker to head the winner and book Australia, playing their second tournament, a place in the last four for the first time.

    At the final whistle, Osieck shook hands warmly with fellow German
    Wolfgang Sidka, who constructed a creditable defence of the title Iraq won amid emotional scenes in 2007.

    "It was a very exciting match for both sides," Sidka said. "It was up and down. We always tried to create chances, especially in extra time.

    "We did everything and in the end, it was one cross and one header. We were disappointed, but the way we played was 100 per cent OK."

    Iraq's supporters outnumbered and outsung Australia's among crowd of 7,889.

    "There was huge crowd of supporters shouting for us, so I think my players needed this," Sidka added.

    "As the match went on, they played more and more from their hearts."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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