Captain Kewell heads Australia home

Australia is just one win away from a likely place in the next phase of the 2010 World Cup qualifiers after defeating Iraq 1-0 defeating Iraq 1-0 at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium.

Australia is just one win away from a likely place in the next phase of the 2010 World Cup qualifiers after defeating Iraq 1-0 defeating Iraq 1-0 at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium.

Coach Pim Verbeek described Australia-s win, courtesy of a Harry Kewell header in the 47th minute, as lucky, with Mark Schwarzer once again proving his value in between the sticks for Australia.

The three points gained by Australia, now puts them on seven points, six clear of the Iraqi-s and just three away from the 10 points that Verbeek believes will be enough to secure Australia-s passage to the next phase.

It was however anything but, easy for Australia, as Iraq can feel desperately unlucky not have got something out of the game, a fact Verbeek acknowledged after the match.

“Four games and no goals against, but today it was not what we deserved,” he said with awry smile on his face. “I am very happy with my three points.”

“We started quite nervous in the game and were lucky with the ball on the crossbar and that was the story of the whole game. We gave too many chances away; we were lucky.”

Schwarzer stood tall again, as he did in China just over two months ago, with several terrific saves to deny what appeared certain goals, as the Iraq attack found holes in the Australian defence.

The most telling moment of the match, came just two minutes into the second half, when the impressive Kewell rose unopposed to head home a beautiful cross from Brett Emerton on the right.

Iraq started the stronger and put paid to Verbeek-s theory that they would play defensive and come for a point. They were clearly here for three points and almost had the lead in the 5th minute, when Emad Rida pounced on Schwarzer-s punched clearance to drive a shot from 20 metres against the crossbar.

That seemed to wake Australia up as they got back into the match, with Mark Bresciano and Kewell forcing saves from Noor Sabri Abbas in the Iraq goal.

Kewell was getting some special treatment and wild lunges at the Australian captain saw Ali Hussein Rahema and Haider Hussain yellow carded.

Iraq should have taken the lead in the 26th minute, when Rida somehow found himself in acres of space inside the box, but Schwarzer was equal to the task and spread himself well to block the shot.

Ten minutes Rida-s captain Younes Mahmoud should have done better with his headed effort, which went wide under no pressure from seven yards out.

Australia finished the half strongly; forcing a succession of corner-s which started when Luke Wilkshire-s shot was blocked away by Noor.

That momentum seemed to carry through after the break and Kewell, who was always probing and causing concern for the Iraqi defence slipped in guide Emerton-s cross past a stagnate Noor, sparking wild celebrations and a few sighs of relief.

Australia looked more composed in the second half and Kewell should have added a second to his tally on 66 minutes, when he ran onto Wilkshire-s brilliant ball in behind the defence. But after taking one touch, Kewell could only guide his shot straight into the arms of Noor from close range.

Iraq stepped up its efforts for an equaliser in the last 20 minutes and several times, balls in behind the Australian defence caused anxious moments, with Rida's poor first touch ruining a great chance, while Mahmoud saw another chance fritted away when he took too long and was eventually closed down, although a ricochet almost embarrassed Australia.

Schwarzer again came to the fore with seven minutes remaining, denying Hawar who was sent through, albeit suspiciously well offside.

Brett Holman went close to settling the contest with four minutes remaining, his shot, which looked in for all money, slamming into the side-netting.

Match Details Australia 1 (Kewell 47) Iraq 0

Australian line-up: Mark SCHWARZER (GK); Michael BEAUCHAMP, Jade NORTH, Jason CULINA, Brett EMERTON, Luke WILKSHIRE, Scott MCDONALD (Brett Holman 65-), Harry KEWELL (Bruce DJITE 77-), David CARNEY, Vince GRELLA, Mark BRESCIANO (Carl VALERI 62-) Subs not used: Chris COYNE, Michael PETKOVIC (gk), Nick CARLE, Rod VARGAS Cautions: Grella (48-) Crowd: 48,678