Elrich Gets Australia Home Against Iraq

The Socceroos have weathered a rugged Iraqi challenge at Telstra Stadium tonight to earn a hard fought and richly deserved 2-1 victory. Ahmad Elrich scored with his first touch after coming on as a substitute with 17 minutes left to play.

The Socceroos have weathered a rugged Iraqi challenge at Telstra Stadium tonight to earn a hard fought and richly deserved 2-1 victory.  Ahmad Elrich, an absentee from first team football for the better part of four months, scored the match winner within 60 seconds of replacing Brett Emerton in the Australian front line.

Earlier, a Marco Bresciano (pictured celebrating his goal) free kick had levelled the scores, after Mohammad Nasir had given the visitors an early advantage.

Ultimately, in what was a rough and sometimes dissonant display of international football, Frank Farina-s charges showed enough steel and determination to record their first win since September 2004 and extend their unbeaten run to ten matches.

“If we-re all honest with ourselves, the players included, we were a bit disappointing,” said coach Farina.

“It was an ugly win, I-m a little bit disappointed and I know that most of the players are disappointed in the manner in which we played.

“We can certainly get better.”

Iraq-s match opener on eleven minutes came after some fine opportunism from front man Nasir.

What seemed to be a harmless clearance from deep in the Iraqi half became a well measured through ball that caught out Australia-s back tracking defence.

Nasir made no mistake in lobbing his effort past the advancing Mark Schwarzer, who could only watch helplessly as the Iraqi-s seized an early advantage against the run of play.

Australia did not have to wait too long for their equaliser, with Bresciano stepping up to smash home his fifth international goal twelve minutes after Iraq had taken the lead.

The Parma midfielders strike from 20 metres was not his best, but was enough to slide under the body of Iraqi custodian Sarmad Rasheed, who will feel he could have done more to stop Bresciano-s dipping effort.

Australia continued their dominant ways for the remainder of the first stanza, ailed only by a hint of lethargy amongst their understandably jetlagged first eleven.

The second half started much like the first, with Australia looking comfortable on the ball and susceptible to the Iraqi counter.

One of the typically speedy Iraqi attacks should have produced a goal.

Goal scorer Nasir had only Schwarzer to beat after being thread an exquisite through ball by midfielder Hawar Mohamed, but could only send his low effort inches wide of the left upright.

Australia, looking less convincing than in the first half, continued to press the Iraqi back line in search of a match winner and were rewarded seventeen minutes from time when substitute Elrich slammed home his fourth goal in the green and gold.

Elrich, whose transfer wrangle with Korean club Busan I-Cons has threatened to derail his national team prospects, made no mistake with his first touch of the game after latching onto a well-measured Josip Skoko pass.

“I-ve been through a lot the past four months and to come in front of the Sydney fans and score for your country, you couldn-t write better script,” said a delighted Elrich after the match.

Coach Farina hinted that changes would be made for Australia-s next outing in Perth on Tuesday against Indonesia, but expects the majority of his side to be available for selection.

“I expect us to play well on Tuesday and we-re hoping and expecting to have a win,” said Farina.

“It certainly won-t be the same eleven that start, we-ll make changes.

“There-s opportunity in that game to try out younger players and give them a chance.”

Australia Mark Schwarzer (gk), Craig Moore, Lucas Neill, Tony Popovic, Brett Emerton (Jason Culina 71-), Josip Skoko, John Aloisi, Tim Cahill (Ahmad Elrich 71-), Stan Lazaridis (Tony Vidmar 45-), Scott Chipperfield (Jon McKain 63-), Marco Bresciano (Mile Sterjovski 63-)

Unused Substitutes Jade North, Paul Agostino, Ante Milicic, David Zdrilic, Zeljko Kalac (gk), Ljubo Milicevic, Luke Wilkshire

Goals Bresciano 22-, Elrich 72- Bookings Cahill (YC) 20-, Sterjovski (YC) 88'

Iraq: Sarmad Rasheed (gk), Haiedar Hassan, Nashat Akram, Hawar Mohamed, Yasser Raad, Haidar Abdul Ameer, Mahdi Kareem (Safwan Hamad Mohammed 86-), Wisam Zaki, Mohammad Nasir (Ali Jabir 79-), Haitham Kaahum (Moaid Salim 63-), Ahmad Assa

Unused Substitutes Wisam Kasid (gk), Aqeel Abdul Hussain, Hussain Ali, Louai Hassan

Goals Nasir 11- Bookings Raad (YC) 67-, Hassan (YC) 76-

Referee Peter O-Leary (New Zealand) Crowd 30,258