Published — Thursday 15 November 2012
Last update 15 November 2012 5:22 am
DOHA: A late goal by striker Hammadi Ahmed gave a youthful Iraq a vital 1-0 victory over Jordan in World Cup qualifying on yesterday, thrusting them back into contention for a place in Brazil.
Jordan had wasted a number of good chances to break the deadlock before Ahmed took advantage of the space afforded to him on the edge of the area to fire home a fierce 20-meter shot in the 86th minute.
The victory was Iraq’s first in Group B of the fourth round of Asian qualifying and moved them on to five points from five matches, one ahead of Jordan and level with second-placed Australia and Oman.
Japan lead the way on 13 points after beating Oman 2-1 in Muscat and are heavy favorites to take one of the two guaranteed qualifying berths from the group.
Iraq, forced to play their home matches in Qatar by FIFA because of security issues at home, looked least likely to qualify before yesterday’s match after some disappointing results and without a number of key individuals against Jordan.
Brazilian coach Zico named a side full of 20-year-olds who struggled in a dire first half of few chances between two sides who were meeting for the fourth time in this World Cup campaign, having played home and away in the third round.
The game sprang to life in the last 30 minutes, however, with Jordan’s Hasan Mahmoud denied brilliantly from seven meters out by Iraq goalkeeper Noor Sabri.
Another sharp shot by Mahmoud was palmed away by Sabri in the 72nd minute before the Iraq goalkeeper was caught out of position four minutes later only for his team mates to scramble two efforts off the goal line.
Ahmed then scored on a counter-attack but Sabri secured the man-of-the-match honors by clawing away another close-range Jordan effort by substitute Hamza Al Daradreh in the 89th minute.
The goalkeeper palmed the ball into the air as he fell backwards toward the goal line before pushing it away just in time at the second attempt as a Jordan attacker closed.
Jordan next face a tricky task at home to Japan in March, while 2007 Asian champions Iraq play their final three qualifiers in June away to Oman and Australia with a ‘home’ tie against the Blue Samurai in between.
New Zealand, China
draw in friendly
In Shanghai, a Chris Wood goal was enough to grab New Zealand a share of the spoils in a 1-1 friendly draw with China yesterday.
The Kiwi striker’s 43rd minute header canceled out Zhao Peng’s 30th minute opener at Shanghai’s Hongkou Stadium.
China coach Jose Camacho, whose side is out of World Cup qualifying and is now preparing for next year’s Asian Cup preliminaries, said his players were making progress, albeit slowly.
“Overall I think we are progressing as a team but patience is needed, our progress is slow,” the ex-Spain and Real Madrid boss said. “But the first half performance shows we are improving.”
But New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert said his untested line-up had done enough to claim a win as they gear up to host Oceania’s fourth round of 2014 World Cup qualifiers in March.
“A number of our senior players were not here tonight so it was a challenge for the young boys,” Herbert said, adding: “At the end of the day with our chances we should have won it.”
China started brightly and in the first minute New Zealand goalkeeper Mark Paston had to look sharp to beat away a Yu Hanchao shot from the edge of box.
In the ninth minute, Kiwi fullback Winston Reid brought down China captain Zheng Zhi on the edge of the penalty area, but Paston managed to hold Sun Xiang’s free kick.
New Zealand took until the 15th minute to register a shot on target, when Wood fired a well-struck low effort from around 20 yards.
China were enjoying the better of the first half and Guangzhou Evergrande striker Gao Lin came close to scoring when he combined well with Sun Xiang, but saw his low drive saved by Paston.
When Kiwi defender Ben Sigmund fluffed his shot from a dangerous Michael McGlinchey free kick on 30 minutes, China cleared long and immediately won a corner at the other end.
From the set-piece, Chinese defender Zhao Peng connected with a glancing header which squirmed over the line to put the home side ahead.
But the All Whites equalized in the 43rd minute when Tony Lochhead floated in a free kick from the left channel to the far post for Wood to nod home.
And just before half-time, Wood had a golden opportunity to put his side ahead but narrowly failed to connect with Lochhead’s low cross.
The second half was more evenly contested and Tim Payne should have scored when he received the ball near the edge of the six yard box, but shot weakly.
Just two minutes later, China’s Yu Hai sent a penetrating through ball to Yu Hanchao, who sprinted down the left and cut in to shoot from a very tight angle, but Paston was able to palm the ball wide.