Iraq heap more misery on Australia at Asian Cup

July 15, 2007 - 0:0

BANGKOK (AFP) -- Australia were booed off the field with their Asian Cup hopes in tatters after a disastrous 3-1 defeat to Iraq here Friday.

The Socceroos fell behind after a 22nd-minute goalkeeping clang by Mark Schwarzer, only to equalize through Mark Viduka but they were badly exposed defensively again for the Iraqis to wrap it up with two more goals. The bumbling loss heaps further pressure on under-fire coach Graham Arnold, with chants of "Arnold out" from the traveling Australian fans in the small crowd. Iraq now share the lead in Group A with Thailand, 2-0 winners over Oman Thursday, with the pair favorites to go into the quarterfinals after Monday's final pool games. The Thais need only a point against Australia, while Iraq also only require a draw against Persian Gulf rivals Oman to move into the last eight. Australia, who again struggled for any semblance of the form they showed at last year's World Cup, must beat the Thais under the tournament rules to stand any chance of going through. "It was very disappointing. Three individual mistakes cost us the game. We worked hard to get back to 1-1 and then two individual mistakes killed us," Arnold said. "I will go so far as to say that some players don't want to be here and that's a major disappointment." It was another night of humiliation for the one-time tournament favorites, who needed a Tim Cahill stoppage-time goal to salvage a draw with Oman last Sunday. But there was jubilation in the Iraq camp with coach Jorvan Vieira saying: "I told you all that we were ready for the match. "People sometimes don't believe and we proved today and congratulations to my players. "I was never surprised. We worked to win, we never work to lose." Schwarzer badly misjudged a lofted long-range free kick from midfielder Nashat Akram midway through the opening half with calamitous results. The Middlesbrough goalkeeper stayed on his line and was deceived by the flight and the close attention of Salih Sadir for the ball to sail past him into the net to give the Iraqis the crucial opening goal in stifling heat. It was just the spur the Iraqis needed and it was like a hammer blow for the Australians, who spoke before the match of the importance of scoring the first goal. The Socceroos offered little in attack in the opening 45 minutes with lone striker Viduka held in check and only coming close to scoring with a sizzling free kick in the 31st minute. Frustrations boiled over in the trying conditions with the Australians receiving four yellow cards -- midfielder Jason Culina, defender Lucas Neill and midfielder Vince Grella in the opening term. In the dying seconds West Ham's Neill was sent off for a second yellow card offense. Cahill came on for Brett Holman straight after halftime and his presence for a time galvanized the Australians and they equalized two minutes after the break with Brett Emerton's cross nodded home by Viduka. But Iraq badly caught out the loose Australian defense again with Nashat's precise angled pass finding Hawar Mulla unmarked in the centre and he gave Schwarzer no chance to put his team 2-1 up on the hour. Arnold brought on strikers Archie Thompson and John Aloisi in a bid to salvage a point but it was substitute Karrar Jassim who rubbed salt into Australia's wounds. He seized on Schwarzer's half-save off Mahdi Karim with four minutes left to kill off the Australians. UAE KO’d Frankfurt forward Naohiro Takahara struck twice as Japan whipped the United Arab Emirates out of Asian Cup contention Friday with a 3-1 win that kept alive their hopes of a third straight title. Japan surged to the top of Group B with one win and one draw, level with co-hosts and tournament revelation Vietnam, crushing the Persian Gulf Cup champions' bid to qualify for the quarterfinals. Japan and Vietnam will battle it out in their last group match on Monday when a winless UAE face Asian Games gold medalists Qatar. Takahara, who scored in the 1-1 draw with Qatar on Monday, headed home a cross from Celtic midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura who lobbed the ball with a sliding kick from near the touchline in the 22nd minute. Five minutes later, Takahara bagged his brace, taking a cross from Akira Kaji and volleying it through two defenders into the far corner of the net. Nakamura gave Japan a 3-0 lead in the 42nd minute, converting a penalty after midfield partner Yasuhito Endo was bundled over by 'keeper Majeed Naser. The UAE were reduced to 10 men in the 53rd minute after defender Basheer Saeed was sent off for a sliding tackle on Japanese defensive midfielder Keita Suzuki. Nakamura's resulting 30-meter free kick found its way into Naser's hands. The UAE gamely fought on and struck back on the break with a goal on the hour. Substitute striker Saeed Alkas latched on to a through pass after a nifty run down the middle of the park by Ahmed Mohamed, blasting past veteran Japan goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi. Ismaeil Matar, the Persian Gulf Cup most valuable player with five goals, was a livewire and kept Japan on their toes, with a 15-meter attempt going close in the 70th minute. But Japan cleverly maintained possession as the clock ticked down and with 10 minutes to go, Endo almost made it 4-1 with a 20-meter drive which Naser collected. It was Japan's fourth win against two losses and six draws in their head-to-head with the UAE. In their last encounter, Japan lost to the Persian Gulf visitors 1-0 in Tokyo in 2005