Saturday’s two quarter-finals in the AFC Asian Cup were both decided in extra-time as Australia and Korea Republic squeezed out respective 1-0 victories over 2007 champions Iraq and their neighbours Iran.
The Socceroos’ hard-fought win provided ample revenge for their 3-1 defeat to the Iraqis in the group phase four years ago and sent them into the semi-finals of the competition for the first time. Meanwhile, despite dominating possession against Iran in the day’s second tie, the South Koreans were indebted to a match-winning performance from one of their substitutes as they maintained their bid for continental glory.
Australia 1-0 Iraq (aet), Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, Doha
Goal: Harry Kewell 117
Caution was the watchword in the opening 45 minutes as an eagerly anticipated contest failed to catch light, the first real chance of the game coming close to the interval when Matt McKay’s firm drive was kept out by the excellent Mohammed Kassid. The Iraqis fashioned the best chance of an altogether more entertaining second half when Younis Mahmoud and Mahdi Karim combined to set up Emad Mohammed, whose shot grazed the upright. Brett Holman was then denied on two occasions by the Iraqi keeper, before Harry Kewell secured a dramatic win for the Aussies with penalties looming, the Galatasaray forward running on to McKay’s long cross to plant a firm header past the helpless Kassid.
Iran 0-1 Korea Republic (aet), Qatar SC Stadium, Doha
Goal: Yoon Bit-Garam 105
In what was their fifth consecutive meeting at this stage of the competition, it was little surprise to see both sides cancel each other out in normal time. After only managing to exert pressure on the well-drilled South Koreans late in the second half, the Iranians fell behind in extra-time when Yoon Bit-Garam’s powerfully struck shot fizzed past goalkeeper Mehdi Rahmati and into the back of the net. Though Afshin Ghotbi’s men poured on the pressure as the clock ran down, Korea Republic stood firm to set up a semi-final date with long-time rivals Japan on Tuesday.
Yoon Bit-Garam, Korea Republic
After sitting out his team’s first game and making late appearances from the bench in the next two, the young midfielder seized his opportunity against Iran, scoring a well-struck goal to send the Taeguk Warriors into the last four of the competition for the second time running.
Harry wins the day
Opponents in the Turkish league, Harry Kewell and Bassim Abbas renewed acquaintances in Doha, with the Iraqi defender keeping a very close eye on his Australian adversary at all times. It was the former Liverpool man who had the last laugh, however, evading Abbas’ clutches late on to head his side into the semi-finals.
Jedinak to the rescue
A goalscoring hero for the Socceroos in the group phase, Mile Jedinak proved his defensive worth at a crucial phase of Saturday’s quarter-final. With eight minutes gone in extra-time, the Australia midfielder headed the ball off the line from a corner after team-mate Sasa Ognenovski had failed to avert the danger with an attempted acrobatic clearance.
Today’s results ensured there will be no representatives from western Asia in the semi-finals of the AFC Asian Cup, the first time this has happened since 1968.
What they said
“I’m happy with the team’s performance. We’re through to the semi-finals and that’s an achievement in itself. I felt we were the better team in extra-time. We were solid at the back and we created a lot of chances, and if I’m not mistaken Iraq only had one,” Holger Osieck, Australia coach.
“We made chance after chance during extra-time, but two minutes from the end we conceded a goal from a fine cross and header. We created openings and we played well, and I’d like to pay tribute to my players, especially for their efforts in the extra half-hour. We tried everything up front, but it wasn’t our day,” Wolfgang Sidka, Iraq coach.