AFC U16 boys: Australia 2 downed Iraq 1

By Paul Green, in Malaysia:

Australia have bounced back from the disappointment of a 3-0 drubbing in their opening match of the AFC Under-16 Championship against Korea Republic by defeating Iraq 2-1 on Tuesday 23rd September, at the picturesque UM Arena within the Universiti Malaya.

This ensured that their final match against Afghanistan on Friday may allow them to qualify for the Quarter Finals.

With Afghanistan hammered 7-0 by Korea Republic a point would be enough unless Iraq can somehow pull off a shock win against Korea Republic, which seems unlikely.

Against Iraq coach Trevor Morgan made only two changes, opting for Adam Pavlesic in goal at the expense of Ahmad Tales, while defender Jordan Bps, who was unavailable, was replaced by Adam Leombruno.

Iraq had a fair share of the game in the first half, after a tentative start which saw Abdulrazzak Qasim Subaihawi forcing a save from Pavlesic following a corner in the seventh minute.

A minute later from 25 yards Australia’s Birkan Kirdar struck the underside of the Iraq bar with a free-kick.

In the 17th Pavlesic tipped one over the bar and another effort was scrambled off the Australia line.

Two good chances were spurned by Australia midway through the half, with Luke Duzel hitting a low shot that the Iraq keeper gathered easily, then at the half-hour mark Noah Boric got onto a nice through ball from Joshua Varga, but could only drag his shot wide.

Iraq fought hard, but perhaps their physicality cost them as midfielder Ali Khadim John, cautioned after only ten minutes, was indiscreet again in the 44th and received his marching orders.

This probably aided Australia’s cause and they were more dominant after the break.

Varga again was the provider in the 52nd, this time for Kirdar, whose shot was saved by the Iraq keeper’ s outstretched legs.

Tristan Hammond showed some nice trickery and calm decision-making when he got the better of his man wide on the left and just inside the penalty area, before picking out Duzel with a precision pass to the right of the area

Duzel showed good composure to slam a first-time, swerving shot into the bottom corner of the net.

Seven minutes later a ball played through from the left again split open the Iraq defence allowing Boric to finish nicely from a tight angle, six yards out.

Australia then had Iraq coming at them over the final 20 minutes looking to salvage something from the game and keep their hopes alive.

A tackle by Jaden Kuchararski on Abdulrazzaq in the 79th looked good enough, but referee Payam Heidari felt otherwise and ordered a penalty-kick, which was assuredly put away by the man who had been brought down.

Australia survived, though they might have had a third in the 86th when a low cross from the right by Joshua Benson was spooned over the bar by fellow-substitute Jayden Gorman.

A decent crowd was in for the match at the 1,400 capacity UM Arena with equal numbers of Iraq and Australia supporters.

It looked a lot more than the official attendance of 189, nearer to 400 to all appearances, but not all of them could have been paying spectators.