Socceroos defeated by Iraq

The Socceroos qualification for the next phase of AFC World Cup qualifiers will have to wait another week at least, after they lost 1-0 against Iraq at the Al Ahli Club (Rashid) Stadium in Dubai (UAE).

Dubai: The Socceroos qualification for the next phase of AFC World Cup qualifiers will have to wait another week at least, after they lost 1-0 against Iraq at the Al Ahli Club (Rashid) Stadium in Dubai (UAE).

The only goal of the game came in the 28th minute through a 35-metre cross from left that caught Mark Schwarzer out and went in off the underside of the crossbar near the top corner.

The result now leaves Australia level on seven points with Qatar (Australia is ahead on goal difference), who earlier had beaten China 1-0 in Tianjin. The win by Iraq, opens the group right up with all four teams still in contention for the next phase. Iraq has now moved to four points; with China now bottom of the group on three points.

Australia threw everything at Iraq in the second half, with Brett Holman and David Carney going closest to scoring, but it just wasn-t to be in the hot and very humid conditions.

The first 20 minutes saw both sides play fairly conservatively, but it came to life when Australia had good claims for a penalty, after Jason Culina appeared to be knocked over as he went to head a cross from Harry Kewell.

A minute later the first genuine shot at goal arrived, with Schwarzer forced to tip a long range shot by Gatea over the bar. Another minute later, Emad had a good chance when his header from Gatea-s cross was just wide of the far post.

But the highlight of the half came six minutes later, when Emad-s cross-cum-shot, cleared Schwarzer, who was standing off his line and was unable to get a hand on it as he dived backwards.

Australia-s first and only chance of the half came on half time when Luke Wilkshire-s free kick from just outside the penalty box sailed over the bar. This followed a surging run by Kewell and he was crudely cut down.

Seconds later and disaster for Australia, with Vince Grella booked for an innocuous challenge, his second yellow of the qualifiers, which rules him out of the Qatar match next week.

Verbeek changed his shape at half time taking Grella off for Brett Holman and going to a 4-4-2, with Holman joining Kewell up front and debutant Chris Coyne shifting to left back and Brett Emerton and David Carney in more traditional wide midfield roles.

Iraq had the first chance opening of second half when a bullet cross from Nashat Akram, was blocked by Schwarzer and eventually cleared for a corner after a mini-scramble. But that was to be it for Iraq, as Australia dominated the second half, looking for an equaliser.

Australia-s first chance of the second half, came from a first time shot by Culina from the edge of the box, after he had played a one-two with Holman. Iraq keeper Noor was able to save comfortably.

The best chance for an equaliser though came in the 60th minute; Holman playing a terrific one-two with Kewell, who played a neat back heel to get Holman into clear space, but the Dutch-based midfielder, saw his shot saved down low by Noor.

Kennedy then had a chance soon after coming on, but missed Wilkshire-s delightful cross, with Culina-s follow up shot from Culina blocked.

With the game petering out, Australia had one last surge in extra time thanks to a corner. Wilkshire-s cross to the back post fell to Carney, but his shot was desperately cleared off the line and that was it.

A special mention to the 400-odd fans who came to witness the match, especially given the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the purchase of their tickets for the match.

Australia will next play Qatar in a week-s time in Doha, with kick-off at 7.00pm (Sunday 2.00am AEST).

Match Details

Iraq 1 (Emad 28-) Australia 0

Australian line-up: Mark Schwarzer (gk); Chris Coyne (Joshua Kennedy 65-), Michael Beauchamp, Jade North, Jason Culina, Carl Valeri, Brett Emerton, Luke Wilkshire, Harry Kewell (c) (Scott McDonald 71-), David Carney, Vince Grella (Brett Holman h/t) Subs from: Michael Petkovic (gk), Mile Jedinak, Rod Vargas, Mark Bresciano

Cautions: Grella (46-+)