Srecko Katanec angry after late Iraqi free-kick breaks Vietnamese hearts at Asian Cup

Updated 08 January 2019
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Srecko Katanec angry after late Iraqi free-kick breaks Vietnamese hearts at Asian Cup

  • Iraq coach tells players performance was not good enough.
  • Adnan Ali's injury-time free-kick saves side's blushes in Abu Dhabi.

LONDON: Srecko Katanec admitted he was a relived man after it took a dramatic, last-gasp winner to earn his Iraq side all three points against Vietnam.

The 2007 winners came into the tournament confident of doing well, having lost only once in the past 10 months and looking every inch a side that, with a bit of momentum, could cause a shock in the UAE. 

Their opening match in Abu Dhabi, although not a walk in the park, was not supposed to serve up too many problems. But having twice been a goal down to an inspired Vietnam side, it took a brilliant free-kick from Adnan Ali deep into injury time to gift the Lions of Mesopotamia all the points.

To say the performance was not what Katanec was after would be an understatement, and he told his team they can forget about ultimate glory if they play like that again during the tournament. 

“The first half was horrible,” the Iraq coach said.

“We showed nothing that we did in training — no power, no personality at all. Maybe it was first-game emotions, the players felt the pressure a little bit.

“I knew it would be a tough game,” added the Slovenian. 

“But the most important thing was the three points.”

First matches of tournaments always throw up shocks — as Jordan’s defeat of Australia on Sunday illustrated — and that Iraq played badly and still took all the points will be the big positive to take out of the match. But the 90 minutes in the UAE capital highlighted there is still much for Iraq to do before they can be remotely considered title contenders. 

Vietnam’s Golden Dragons took a shock lead after 24 minutes, defender Ali Faez panicking under pressure from Nguyen Cong Phuong and backheeling the ball past goalkeeper Jalal Hassan Hachim.

Iraq levelled 10 minutes later through striker Mohanad Ali, who profited from a defensive error to rifle home from the edge of the box.

Cong Phuong restored the Golden Lions’ lead three minutes before the break, stabbing in from close range after Nguyen Trong Huang’s shot had been parried by Hachim.

But Humam Tareq lashed home a second equalizer on the hour mark after more horror defending from the Vietnamese, who by that point looked to be running out of steam.

Having played so badly Iraq would have likely taken the point, but deep into injury time Ali curled a left-foot free-kick into the top corner to break Vietnamese hearts.

In terms of mixing the dramatic with the spectacular it is not an overstatement to suggest that Ali’s free-kick winner is up there with Cristiano Ronaldo’s last-gasp dead-ball brilliance against Spain at least year’s World Cup. 

It summed up what was a match-winning performance from the midfielder who was excellent throughout and who will likely be the key man if Iraq go far in the tournament. 

This performance, however, suggested Iraq will have to go up several gears if they are to make good on some promising displays heading into this match. 

Vietnam, while no mugs, are not world-beaters and Iraq will be only too aware that they should have seen off the South-East Asian side more convincingly.

"If we want to go deep into the tournament we will have to improve,"  Katanec said.
"But I have a clearer picture now of our overall condition and we will grow into the tournament."


Naomi Osaka not worried about form after shock Dubai defeat

Updated 58 min 58 sec ago
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Naomi Osaka not worried about form after shock Dubai defeat

  • World No. 1 easily beaten but claims all is well with her game.
  • Osaka surprisingly split with coach in run up to Dubai tournament.

LONDON: Naomi Osaka said she is not worried after the world No. 1 was shocked in the second round at the Dubai Tennis Championships.
The two-time Grand Slam champion was convincingly beaten 6-3, 6-3 by Kristina Mladenovic in her first match since she memorably won the Australian Open last month — her second consecutive Slam success.
Heading into the clash there was much talk about her lack of action on court and her split with coach Sascha Bajin. She said there was nothing to the split with Bajin other than “happiness was more important than success.”
And having been easily beaten by the Dubai-based Frenchwomen Osaka said she was not troubled by her form.
“The Australian Open was not even a month ago,” Osaka said.
“I mean, this was just one match. I feel like even if I don’t win any matches for the rest of the year, I wouldn’t say I’m concerned.
“I think I’m pretty young. I still feel like I have a lot to learn.”
The Japanese star, who became the first Asian woman to reach the summit of the rankings, added that the shock defeat might actually work in her favor.
“For me, that’s sort of my biggest thing after this match. I think I play well after I lose a sort of bad match,” the 21-year-old said.
“I’m just looking forward to the next tournament.
“Before US Open (which she won), I lost those three matches in a row. I was just thinking, like, ‘wow, am I ever going to do anything in my life?’”