Australia beats Iraq 2-1 in World Cup qualifier

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DOHA, Qatar (AP) -Australia scored two late goals Tuesday to come from behind and beat Iraq 2-1 for its first victory in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

Iraq scored against the run of the play from a counterattack when Younis Mahmoud crossed for substitute Ala'a Abdulzehra to slot the ball past keeper goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer in the 72nd minute.

Australia leveled when Tim Cahill rose above the defense and headed the ball into the net from a corner in the 80th.

With the match looking like petering out to a draw, Australia substitute Tom Oar crossed the ball into the box for unmarked substitute Archie Thompson to head home from close range in the 84th minute for the winner.

"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," Australia coach Holger 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 were failed to score from the chances that we created and we lost the match."

The win was deserved for Australia, which had made a stuttering start to its qualifying campaign with critics questioning whether the veteran team could reach a third straight World Cup. Australia has struggled often in the Middle East heat, losing to Jordan and drawing with Oman. It also drew with Japan at home.

But Australia's attack against Iraq was more fluid to take control from the start.

Within the first five minutes, captain Lucas Neill sent a rising strike over the crossbar following a direct run. Iraq goalkeeper Noor Sabri was called into action after 28 minutes when a vicious, dipping strike from Cahill forced him to make a sprawling save.

But much like its previous matches, Australia failed to take advantage of numerous scoring opportunities - allowing Iraq to score first on a counterattack that caught Australia sleeping.

This time, though, Australia kept pressing and it paid off with the two headers thanks to its height advantage up front and some lax defense from Iraq.

Iraq substitute Mustafa Kareem almost found an instant response, but Schwarzer stood firm.

"Our situation has become now very delicate as we are now in last position in the group," Iraq coach Zico said. "However, there are still four matches to play and hopefully we can get back into competition in the remaining matches, although it will not be easy."

Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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