Hasan Abdulkareem scored an injury-time equaliser as ten-man Iraq held Oman 1-1 in their FIFA Arab Cup opener at the Al Janoub Stadium on Tuesday.
In a high-octane and also controversial match, both the teams were unable to score in the best part of the match with both goals coming through penalties. Salah al-Yahyaei put the Red Warriors ahead in the 78th minute from a penalty spot, while Abdulkareem netted the equaliser for Iraq in the 96th minute from a retaken penalty.
The first penalty taken by Aymen Hussein was saved by Oman goalkeeper Ahmed al-Rawahi. But the referee ordered to retake the spot kick with al-Rawahi’s moving of the goal line before Hussein touched the ball. Iraq played with ten players from the 69th minute as Yasser Qasim received a second yellow card after his tough tussle with Haribal Saadi.
Oman coach Branko Ivankovic was not happy with the result. “We deserved to win. We were the better team, especially in the second half,” he said. “I am really not satisfied with the performance of the referee and what he has done with VAR,” Ivankovic added.
The 67-year-old Croatian was pleased with his players’ performance. “I think my boys played well throughout the match. It’s is always tough in the first match of any tournament. I am sure we will come back strongly in the next match,” he said.
Not much separated the two sides at the half-time with Oman taking advantage in ball possession. Under interim coach Zeljko Petrovic, Iraq managed to find spaces but was on target only once in their nine attempts in the first session.
The first actual attempt from Oman came in the 17th minute as Ahmed al-Kabbi crossed a ball to Al Mundhar al-Alawi who tried to convert it into goal, but it was saved by Iraq’s goalkeeper Fahad Talib.
Iraq moved closer to taking the lead in the last few minutes of the first half, with Alaa Abbas getting an opportunity to volley the ball in but his hit went wide, with six minutes left in the first half.
From Oman, Amjad al-Harthi attempted to score two minutes before the half-time, but failed to break the deadlock. Iraq’s Mohamed Qasim also had his strike averted after he found the target off a free kick as players went into the halftime without a goal.
The second-half started in a similar fashion with both the teams exchanging attacks. At an hour-mark, Mario Tokic called three fresh legs from the Omani dugout, hoping for a goal with Petrovic also making three substitutions 10 minutes later.
Oman got the opportunity to score when Iraq’s Hasan Raed was penalised with a penalty kick for stopping al-Harthi as he raged inside from the right flank. Al-Yahyaei scored the opener comfortably, beating Talib with a hit in the right corner.
Al-Harthi’s goal a few minutes later following a free kick was disallowed after the midfielder was declared offside, a minute after Petrovic made two more substitutions, looking to bounce into the match.
Iraq continued to push for an equaliser but Oman remained stubborn in defence and continued to pose a threat for Iraq defence with counter attacks.
However, Iraq finally got an opportunity, winning a penalty in the fourth minute of stoppage time after the referee consulted the VAR.
Iraq will now meet Bahrain at the Al Thumama Stadium on Friday in their second group match, while Oman will take on hosts Qatar on the same day at the Education City Stadium.
Iraq’s Hasan Abdulkareem (right) celebrates with teammates after scoring against Oman in the FIFA Arab Cup at the Al Janoub Stadium on Tuesday. PICTURE: Ram Chand