A brilliant individual goal from Iraq midfielder Yaser Kasim was the difference as the 2007 champions opened their Asian Cup campaign with a 1-0 win over Jordan in Brisbane, Australia, yesterday.
Kasim broke the stalemate in the 77th minute when he collected the ball just outside the penalty area and weaved his way past two defenders with a mazy run.
He found just enough space to squeeze out a shot, which took a wicked deflection off defender Tareq Khattab’s foot and gave goalkeeper Amer Shafi no chance.
The win means Iraq are favorites to finish second in Group D after defending champions Japan thumped Palestine 4-0 earlier.
In a tight first half little separated the two teams, who appeared to be more intent on not losing rather than on winning.
Iraq’s goal-scoring hero from their 2007 Asian Cup final win over Saudi Arabia, Younis Mahmoud, played as a lone forward and was heavily marked by Jordan’s defense.
He had few opportunities to make an impact, though the best chance of the opening 45 minutes fell to him when he found space in the area only for his shot to be blocked by a lunging Khattab.
Iraq came out firing after the break and dominated the second period.
Amjed Kalaf was especially dangerous down the right wing, his pace allowing him to get in behind Jordan, but any attacking chances were quickly snuffed out by the scrambling defense.
Jordan were content to sit back and hit the Iraqis on the counterattack and it almost paid dividends when the impressive Oday al-Saify found space, but his shot was headed away for a corner.
That was as close as Jordan got as they were forced to absorb wave after wave of Iraq attacks and were lucky not to concede a second.
They were hampered even further when rightback Anas Bani Yaseen was sent off in the 84th minute for a second yellow card.
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