A Doha double bill on Tuesday produced a defeat for Qatar and a crucial win for Australia in the fight to seal spots at the 2014 World Cup in Asian qualifying.
At the Grand Hamad Stadium, Australia moved up to second in Group B of the final round of Asian qualifying with a 2-1 win over Iraq.
The Socceroos, who were stunned 2-1 by Jordan recently, desperately needed a win to move up the table and increase their chances of appearing at their third successive World Cup.
Tied at two points each with Iraq coming into Tuesday’s tie they now have five points to go level with Oman, who defeated Jordan 2-1 earlier in Muscat.
Iraq are now at the bottom of the table with two losses and two draws. Japan, beaten 4-0 in a friendly against Brazil in Poland, lead the group with 10 points from four matches.
Australia and Iraq shared possession in a goalless first half, but Australia had more chances of scoring. One of their best chances came in the 27th minute when Tim Cahill unleashed a superb left-footer, but Iraq goalkeeper Noor Sabri Abbas pulled off an acrobatic save to deny him.
Australia then completely dominated the second half, but it was Iraq who scored first against the run of play.
After another unsuccessful Australia raid was terminated, Younis Khalef made a perfect long cross to winger Mustafa Karim on the left, who headed it down perfectly for the onrushing Alaa Abdul-Zehra to slip it past Mark Schwarzer in the 72nd minute.
Abdul-Zehra had made his appearance just eight minutes earlier as a substitute for Muthana Khalid.
However, the goal served to galvanize Australia as they increased their attacks and Cahill, their talismanic forward, scored the equalizer eight minutes later when he headed home from a corner.
The comeback was complete for Holger Osieck’s men in the 84th minute when substitute Archie Thompson leapt over the Iraq defense to head home a Tommy Oar cross.
“I’m really happy with the result, as we managed to make a good comeback and got three points, which will put us back into contention,” Osieck said. “The result proved that we can make it, as the win against Iraq was important.We were lucky, even though it only came in the closing minutes. We managed to score from the chances that we had, unlike the last match against Jordan, where we failed to score from the chances that we created and we lost the match.”
Earlier, Qatar lost a golden opportunity to move closer to the finals in Brazil after a 1-0 Group A defeat to Uzbekistan at Doha’s Jassim bin Hamad Stadium.
Sanjar Tursunov producing the match-winner in the 13th minute, the 25-year-old turning well and smashing a volley into the net from an Akmal Shorakhmedov cross.
“I’m proud of the players and the spirit that they have shown, but I’m very disappointed with the defeat,” Qatar coach Paulo Autuori said. “Now we must forget this defeat and carry on with our campaign, as we still have a chance.”
Iran moved into second in Group A, level with their opponents on seven points, after Javed Nekonam’s 76th-minute goal earned the hosts a 1-0 win over South Korea in Tehran.
Uzbekistan climbed into third on five points, with Qatar slipping to fourth on four points, above Lebanon on goal-difference.