Iraq brush past Yemen to set up Iran decider

raq's forward Mohanad Ali Kadhim Alshammari (C) atttempts a shot. (AFP)
Updated 12 January 2019

Iraq brush past Yemen to set up Iran decider

  • Iraq to face rivals Iran to decide which side tops Group D.

LONDON: Iraq illustrated why they could go all the way with an impressive and assured 3-0 win over Yemen in Sharjah.
The Lions of Mesopotamia never looked anything but winners in the Group D clash, victory confirming their presence in the second round, with Wednesday’s match against Iran set to decide who tops the group.
In the very early stages Yemen took the game to the favorites but from the moment Iraq began to dominate possession there was only going to be one winner.
They soon put Yemen under pressure and it was no surprise when Muhanad Ali put Iraq in front after just 11 minutes.
Yemen goalkeeper Saoud Al-Sowadi found himself under incessant pressure, facing wave after wave of attacks. He and the Yemen defence were not able to keep out the Iraqis and Al-Saowadi conceded the second goal in the 19th minute when Bashar Resan Bonyan’s strike from the edge of the box bounced off the right post before hitting the back of the net.
Iraq took their foot off the pedal and allowed Yemen the chance of pulling one back — Ahmed Saeed’s right-footed shot from outside the box well saved by Jalal Hassan Hachim in the Iraq goal.
There was never any real chance of a comeback, however, and Srecko Katanec’s team made sure of the three points with a goal in the dying minutes. Alaa Abbas scoring with a left-footed shot from the centre of the box to wrap up victory.

Underdogs with bite and sloppy South Korea: What we learned from the Asian Cup second round

Updated 23 January 2019

Underdogs with bite and sloppy South Korea: What we learned from the Asian Cup second round

  • Can the mighty minnows continue impressive run in the UAE?
  • Or will the big guns start to fire in quarterfinals?

LONDON: Asia’s biggest sporting spectacle has reached its quarterfinal stage — and it’s time for teams to find their A-game. While there are few surprises in the last-eight lineup, the form of some of the big-name sides has been less than impressive. Here we deliver our verdict on the second round.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT — Saudi Arabia’s attack

The Green Falcons started the tournament at top speed. They came in as one of the cup favorites and in their opening two matches illustrated why. A 4-0 thrashing of North Korea was backed up with a relatively simple 2-0 victory over Lebanon. Understandably, that raised hopes that Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men could go all the way in the UAE. Alas, it was not to be as a 2-0 defeat to Qatar in their last group clash left them with a tricky tie against Japan. For all their efforts Saudi Arabia were unable to find the back of the net, the lack of firepower upfront costing Pizzi’s team yet again.

BIGGEST SHOCK — South Korean sloppiness

Boosted by the arrival of Tottenham star Son Heung-Min, South Korea were rightly declared the pre-tournament favorites. They had firepower up front, intelligence and creativity in midfield, and experience at the back. In the four matches in the UAE so far, however, they have looked anything but potential champions. They labored to beat Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines and China in the group stage before almost being shocked by part-timers Bahrain in the second round. South Korea now face Qatar in the last eight and, as Son said after their extra-time win over Bahrain, they need to significantly improve if they are to avoid a shock exit before the semis.

UNDER PRESSURE — Alberto Zaccheroni and the UAE

The Whites owe their place in the last eight to luck more than skill. In some ways that is not a surprise — the hosts came into the tournament without their talisman, the injured Omar Abdulrahman, and on the back of a patchy run of form. But, still, the performances on home soil have been underwhelming to say the least. That was summed up with their extra-time win over Kyrgyzstan, who were playing in their first Asian Cup. It was a far-from-convincing performance and Central Asians were unlucky not to beat Zaccheroni’s side. The UAE will have to deliver their best performance for some time if they are to progress further. Their opponents, Australia, have also performed poorly, which may offer them some encouragement.

BEST HIGHLIGHT — The mighty minnows

The big guns have not had it all their own way. That may annoy their fans, but it does show that Asian football is improving. Only a few years ago the idea that Kyrgyzstan, Bahrain and Jordan would look the equals of Australia and Co. would have seemed fanciful. But in the past two weeks the standard shown by the so-called lesser lights has been impressive — and great to watch. Last summer five Asian teams appeared at the World Cup for the first time and it was hoped that showing would act as a springboard for further progress across the continent. On the evidence of the action in the UAE that wish could be coming true.