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.

Messi, Armani rescue Argentina in 1-1 draw with Paraguay

Updated 55 min 17 sec ago

Messi, Armani rescue Argentina in 1-1 draw with Paraguay

  • The draw left Argentina with one point from two games and on the bottom of the table with one game remaining

BELO HORIZONTE: A Lionel Messi penalty salvaged a 1-1 draw for Argentina against Paraguay on Wednesday as the two-time world champions once again struggled at the Copa America.

Messi swept in a 57th-minute spot kick at Belo Horizonte’s Mineirao Stadium to cancel out a first-half opener from Paraguay’s Richard Sanchez.

Argentina also had goalkeeper Franco Armani to thank for a second half penalty save that prevented Paraguay from taking a 2-1 lead in the Group B battle.

The draw left Argentina with one point from two games and on the bottom of the table with one game remaining.

However, with the two best third- placed teams advancing to the quarterfinals, Argentina can still reach the last eight with a decisive win over Qatar in their final group game.

“We have to win,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said of his team’s date with Qatar. “We will take stock of what we did well and what we did not do well and we will make decisions. We are lucky that we are still alive in this tournament,” added Scaloni, singling out goalkeeper Armani for special praise.

“We trust Franco,” Scaloni said. “He is our starting goalkeeper. He saved a penalty and kept us alive. I’m glad he had a good performance.”

The South American giants will need to raise their game however to advance any further after another disjointed performance which followed their opening defeat to Colombia on Saturday.

A lackluster opening saw both sides struggle to generate any sort of attacking momentum, with neither side managing to get a shot on goal until Paraguay striker Derlis Gonzalez’s effort was deflected behind for a corner in the 29th minute.

From the ensuing setpiece, center-half Junior Alonso scooped a half-chance wide as Argentina escaped.

That flurry of activity spurred Argentina fleetingly at the other end, with Lautaro Martinez winning a free kick in a dangerous position on the edge of the area after a foul by Paraguay skipper Gustavo Gomez.

Messi, however, was unable to conjure anything from the free kick, floating his effort up and over the wall but without the pace to trouble goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez, who gathered comfortably.

In the 37th minute, however, Paraguay’s more organized performance got its reward.

A swift counterattack saw the ball transferred to Newcastle United’s Miguel Almiron near halfway.

The livewire forward turned on the after-burners to roast Roberto Pereya down the left wing before crossing for Sanchez who drove a low finish into the bottom corner of the Argentina net.

A rattled Argentina were given a huge let-off moments later when Armani came racing out of his area to shut down Gonzalez.

A wild kick brought down the Paraguayan player but Armani somehow escaped a red card and was only cautioned.

Scaloni went for broke at halftime, bolstering his attack with the introduction of Sergio Aguero and the move paid instant dividends.

Aguero deftly lost his marker on 51 minutes and pulled back for Martinez, whose shot cannoned off the woodwork. Messi pounced on the rebound but Fernandez blocked with a diving save.

The chance appeared to have gone begging but VAR had spotted that Martinez’s shot had in fact struck Ivan Piris’s arm before hitting the bar and Brazilian referee Wilson Sampaio pointed to the spot. Messi stepped up to sweep in the spot kick and Argentina were level.

Yet there was more drama in the 62nd minute when Paraguay’s Gonzalez burst into the box and was clumsily hacked down by Nicolas Otamendi for a clear penalty. Armani, who was fortunate to be on the pitch, dived the right way and parried Gonzalez’s spot kick wide.