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Iraq vs Australia

17 October 2012-AAP-PA Sport

Socceroos leave it late in Doha

Australia needed two late goals to come from behind and beat Iraq 2-1 in a vital 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying victory  at the Grand Hamad Stadium in Doha.

Needing three points after a shock loss to Jordan last month, Australia found itself trailing late on once more after Alaa Abdulzehra broke the deadlock on the counter-attack in the 72nd minute.

But Tim Cahill levelled with a trademark header from a Matt McKay corner with 11 minutes left in the match.

The sighs of relief in the Australian camp turned to jubilation four minutes later when substitute Tommy Oar produced an inviting ball for fellow replacement Archie Thompson to nod home in front of a crowd of 2183.

Coach Holger Osieck will have left the stadium relieved to have his first win in the group but knowing his team is still far from its best.

The win moves Australia on to five points from its four matches so far, five points adrift of runaway leader Japan.

The Socceroos, who host three of their last four matches, sit in the second automatic qualification position, level on points with Oman which beat Jordan 2-1.

Australia will be without skipper Lucas Neill and Carl Valeri for its next qualifier, against Oman in Sydney on 26 March, after they picked up yellow cards.

Australia starting XI: Mark Schwarzer, Luke Wilkshire, Matthew Spiranovic, Lucas Neill, Matt McKay, Robbie Kruse, Mile Jedinak, Carl Valeri, Brett Holman, Tim Cahill, Alex Brosque.

Osieck was delighted with his team's comeback.

"I think we are back in the race ... it is better to operate from the upper position rather than to chase the pack," he said.

In sapping conditions, Osieck's decision to hold off until the 75th minute to make his first substitution looked like backfiring when Australia went 1-0 down.

However, Thompson made an impact in his quarter of an hour on the pitch, netting his third goal in three outings for Australia.

"I wanted to substitute at that very moment when they had the counter (and scored) because I had the feeling we needed some fresh legs," Osieck said.

"Unfortunately we conceded but our substitutes gave us more energy and freshness and it was nice that we could benefit from both."

In an encouraging sign, youngster Robbie Kruse bamboozled the Iraq defence in a fine performance as he continued to cement his spot in the national team.

Makeshift defender McKay was one of Australia's leading players while Cahill was at his combative best and should have had his first goal in the 19th minute but scuffed his shot.

Not that he was the only Australian guilty of missing opportunities.

Kruse missed a sitter in the 56th minute as the Socceroos dominated the contest.

Midfielder Mark Bresciano, who only lasted an hour in total in the previous two qualifiers, was not needed with Osieck making three changes to the starting side that lost 2-1 to Jordan last month.

There was a nervous moment for Neill in the 57th minute when he was judged to have pulled back Younus Mahmood.

The Iraq striker looked to be sprinting clear of Neill onto a long ball when the skipper stopped his progress.

Neill received a yellow card but was possibly a touch fortunate not to be handed a straight red from referee Lee Min Hu for being the last defender.

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