Iraq's Mohanad Abdulraheem (right) battles for the ball with Australia's Tomi Juric.
Iraq's Mohanad Abdulraheem (right) battles for the ball with Australia's Tomi Juric. ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH

'Our performance didn't warrant three points today'

EVEN Ange Postecoglou didn't think the Socceroos deserved to beat Iraq.

Australia drew its fourth straight World Cup qualifier in a row, leaving its chances of qualifying for the 2018 tournament in Russia delicately poised.

The Socceroos boss tweaked the formation to play three at the back, but even he had to admit his side "didn't cope".

For a boss who loves his team to dictate the tempo of the game, Postecoglou had to painfully admit "we never really got a hold of the game".

"They (Iraq) got the point they deserved," coach Postecoglou told Fox Sports. "Fair credit to them they worked really hard ... We didn't cope well, especially in the second half.

"Our performance didn't warrant three points today."

Postecoglou said the Socceroos didn't defend well enough and lacked "composure" and "bravery" during the match.

"We had opportunities to get a hold of the game and sometimes we lacked a bit of composure and a little bit of bravery to keep playing our football," he said.

"We just weren't strong enough in defensive areas and we were continually scrambling for things and we never really got a hold of the game.

"I think just about every header in the defensive half we failed to clear and that just caused us problems."

He added: "We had a good chance to go 2-0 up and that would've killed off the game but we didn't. In the end they got one."

But Postecoglou denied it was the new 3-4-3 system that let the Socceroos down.

"It's got nothing to do with the system," he said. "When they're knocking long balls and it's a contest in the air, it's irrelevant what system you're playing. It's about winning the ball in that area and in the second half, it just seemed every time they'd knock a long ball, they'd win the first header and we'd be scrambling to try and get control of it to get control of the game.

"In the conditions it was very hard for us to keep scrambling. In the end we just invited pressure on ourselves and paid the price."

BOSNICH: 'UPHILL BATTLE TO 2018 WORLD CUP'

Now the Socceroos' challenge to qualify for the World Cup has gone up another notch.

It was their fourth straight draw, but Postecoglou highlighted three of those results had come on the road.

Australia has three more qualifiers to play at home - including one against UAE on Tuesday night - and an away clash with Japan.

But from now on Postecoglou says each clash will be a "decider for us".

The result against Iraq leaves Australia on 10 points in Group B after six matches, three points behind Saudi Arabia, which beat Thailand on Thursday, and Japan, which beat the UAE (nine points) 2-0 on Friday morning (AEST).

The top two spots in the Asian qualifying group go straight through to the World Cup, but the third-placed team has to go through two tough play-off stages.

Now there's even more doubt Australia will even secure that third spot.

 

Australian coach Ange Postecoglou.
Australian coach Ange Postecoglou. ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH

THE CONDITIONS: PITCH AND WEATHER

Postecoglou conceded that the sub-par pitch didn't help the Socceroos - but they already knew that going into the matches.

The wet conditions added to the scrappy game, which Postecoglou believes aided the Iraqis.

"Them playing direct helped them cause there was a lot of second balls and scrambling," said Postecoglou. "It's not how we want to play our football."

HOW CLOSE IRAQ CAME TO AN OPENER

The Socceroos were very lucky to be leading at half-time.

Iraq fired the first warning shot after nine minutes when Mohannad Abdulraheem ballooned a shot over the bar into the stands.

Less than 10 minutes later, Mitch Langerak, who was chosen in goal over Mat Ryan, was forced into making a superb save down low to deny Abdulraheem. The chances kept on coming for Iraq.

Saad Abdulameer picked out Amjad Kalaf in the box and Mark Milligan was forced into making a last-ditch interception to stop a shot on goal from point-blank, but Australia put themselves in more danger by giving the ball away in the middle of the park moments later.

SOCCEROOS LIFT AND LECKIE FIRES

However, after the early onslaught, the Socceroos kicked into gear after 30 minutes.

Jackson Irvine unleashed the first shot of the game from outside the box to force goalkeeper Mohammed Hameed to make a great save to stop it flying into the top corner.

Minutes later Mathew Leckie did brilliantly to get past his defender before laying the ball off for Aaron Mooy to shoot first time towards the bottom corner of the goal - but Hameed managed to thwart it.

Mooy then linked up brilliantly with Irvine to allow the Burton midfielder to deliver a tantalising ball across the face of goal, though no one was there to meet it.

Australia won a run of corners - where Mile Jedinak almost turned one in - before Mooy produced the perfect cross.

 

Australia's Mathew Leckie (right) celebrates after scoring against Iraq.
Australia's Mathew Leckie (right) celebrates after scoring against Iraq. ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH

Leckie powerfully headed home at the near post to give the Socceroos the lead, and moments later they nearly doubled it.

Tomi Juric split the defence with a superb through ball for Robbie Kruse, but one-on-one he hesitated, and Hameed slid out and saved.

Milligan and Juric also both had chances before the first half came to a close.

LANGERAK SUPERBLY SAVES SOCCEROOS AGAIN

Early in the second half, Australia and Iraq had golden opportunities within minutes of each other to score.

Mooy picked out Kruse magnificently in the 53rd minute but then fluffed a tap-in when the winger perfectly cut it back for him towards the penalty spot.

Moments later the Socceroos were let off when goalscorer Abdulraheem woefully missed a free header from close range. In fact, he didn't hit the target.

It almost proved very costly 10 minutes later, but Langerak made another incredible save down to his left to thwart an Iraqi header from a corner from close range.

A deflected Mooy shot from outside the box followed, before Leckie found himself in the area but chose to attempt a pass (straight to an Iraqi player) instead of shooting on his left foot.

Australia even managed to get away with a penalty shout after the ball grazed Milos Degenek's outstretched hand when he jumped up to try and win a header.

THEN DISASTER ...

Just when it seemed like the Socceroos were going to hang on for the three points, Iraq levelled the match in the 76th minute.

Iraqi superstar Ali Adnan took the ball down the left and played a silky ball across the face of goal that alluded the Socceroos, but was prodded home by Yasim at the far post.

CHAOS ENSUED

The final minutes saw both teams come close to a winner - but Iraq had the better chances.

Milligan was yellow carded for taking down Abdulraheem, who was latching on to a long ball behind the defence; Brad Smith (who had come on for Kruse) drove a shot over the bar; and then Iraq should've scored.

Australia was somehow able to clear its lines after a 10-second scramble in their area, before Jedinak tracked back to clear a cross just off the line.

Then, down the other end from a corner, Iraq was forced to clear a chance off the line after a scramble.

The final minutes saw both teams try to find a winner, but neither found a divisive blow.

News Corp Australia


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