Former AFC Youth Player of the Year Mohanad Abdulraheem and Amjad Attwan Kadhim scored in extra-time as Iraq set-up an AFC U23 championship semi-final with Japan after the defending champions edged out the United Arab Emirates 3-1 in yesterday’s quarter-final at Grand Hamad Stadium.
Alaa Ali Mhawi’s 75th minute
own goal had handed the UAE the lead in a tight quarter-final tie only for Ali Hisny to equalise for Iraq just two minutes later.
And having netted the winner in the final against Saudi Arabia as Iraq won the AFC U22 Championship at the start of 2014, 2012 AFC Youth Player of the Year Abdulraheem struck at the end of the first half of extra-time before Kadhim sealed the win as Shahad Abdulghani’s side advanced to Tuesday’s meeting with Japan, with the winner guaranteed a place at the Olympic Games in Brazil later this year.
The UAE were without regular first team midfielders Ahmed Barman and Salim Ali due to injury and Abdalla Ghanim through suspension, while Saif Rashid was named on the bench but was not expected to feature having also picked up an injury in Wednesday’s 3-2 win over Vietnam, while Iraq returned to full strength after coach Abdulghani rotated his squad for their 1-1draw with Korea Republic earlier in the week.
But despite making an early substitution as centre-back Salem Sultan was forced off through injury, the UAE were unfortunate not to take the lead after 18 minutes as Yousif Saeed headed Abdulla Kazim’s header onto the crossbar before goalkeeper Fahad Talib and defender Safa Jabbar somehow managed to stop the ball crossing the line with the help of the inside of the post before Sultan Saif fired over.
And the UAE enjoyed the better of the possession at the end of the first half, although Abdullah Misfir’s side were unable to find the breakthrough as Kazim fired straight at goalkeeper Talib from the edge of the penalty area eight minutes before half-time.
It was then UAE goalkeeper Ahmad Shambih who was called into action at the start of the second half as the custodian produced a smart one-handed save to push Ali Faez’s 55th minute free-kick over the crossbar.
And opposite number Talib in the Iraq goal was then required to be at his best with a one-handed save of his own nine minutes after the hour mark to push a vicious dipping half-volley from Saeed over the crossbar
But Talib was beaten six minutes later as Mhawi turned Mohamed al-Akberi’s right wing cross into his own net as the defender attempted to stop Saeed meeting the low near post delivery.
Iraq, though, were behind for just two minutes as Hisny raced in after capitalising on a mistake from UAE defender Mohamed Surour before sliding the ball into the unguarded net from the edge of the six yard area with goalkeeper Shambih out of positon.
And two minutes before half-time of the first added period of extra-time Kadhim’s header found Abdulraheem inside the area after the UAE had struggled to clear the ball and the forward fired high past Shambih at his near post.
Iraq then sealed the win with the last touch of the contest as Kadhim rolled the ball into the net from Abdulraheem’s pass after the UAE had been caught short in defence seeking an equaliser.
Iraq’s Amjad Attwan Kadhim celebrates after scoring against UAE during the AFC U-23 Championship quarterfinals. PICTURES: Noushad Thekkayil