Iraq captain Younis Mahmoud struck the only goal as Zico’s visitors overcame China PR to get their 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ qualifying campaign back on track.
Both sides entered the game with three points from their opening two matches, and knowing victory would give them a top-two position in Group A.
Determined to bounce back from their 2-0 loss in Jordan, Jose Camacho’s charges pressed forward from the outset, but Iraq, having waethered an early Chinese storm, gradually took the upper hand with their long-ball tactics and lightning counter-attacks.
The west Asians should have taken the lead after nine minutes when Mustafa Kareem raced clear into the area, but China goalkeeper Yang Zhi flung himself to block his low shot. Iraq playmaker Nashat Akram also went close to opening the scoring but his powerful shot was deflected over by Wu Xi.
Having survived the early scares, the east Asians battled hard to claw themselves into the contention, with Gao Lin the constant threat in front of the Iraq goal. The Guangzhou Evergrande forward nearly put his side ahead on half-hour, when his left-footed shot was just tipped over by Iraq keeper Mohammed Kassid.
Spurred on by the raucous home crowd, China got the better of the remainder of the first half, but it was the Iraqis that took the lead just before the break through Mahmoud. Pouncing on to a misplaced ball on the edge of the area, he played a smart two-one with Nakram before poking home the latter's well-weighted cross.
China heaped the pressure on Iraq after the interval, pinning the opponents to their own third in the opening stages of the second half. At the other end, struggling to keep the rivals at bay, Iraq's difficulties compounded with the dismissal of defender Basem Abbas, who got red-carded on 65 minutes for a foul on Wu Pingfeng.
Capitalising on their numerical advantage, the Chinese threw everything forward thereafter and they could have drawn level in the closing minutes, with Du Wei calling Kassid into a superb save before an unmarked Yu Hai headed wide with the goal at his mercy. But lacking the necessary composure, the much-wanted equaliser didn't come, allowing the Iraqis to return home with three points and enjoy Group A's second place behind Jordan, who thrashed Singapore 3-0 for their third straight win.