x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

2015 Asian Cup qualifying: Iraq 1 Indonesia 0

Cheered on by 3,300 supporters in Dubai, the Lions of Mesopotamia win their Group C opener to move on from their Gulf Cup final disappointment.

Younus Mahmoud scored the only goal in Iraq's Group C victory over Indonesia in Dubai. Jake Badger for The National
Younus Mahmoud scored the only goal in Iraq's Group C victory over Indonesia in Dubai. Jake Badger for The National

DUBAI // Time is a great healer and while Iraq's 1-0 win over Indonesia tonight at Rashid Stadium provided few goals, it did present much to be optimistic about for the Lions of Mesopotamia.

The first match of Iraq's 2015 Asian Cup campaign was not only their coach Hakeem Shaker's first continental qualifier since taking the reins from Zico, who resigned last November, it also provided a chance for them to bounce back following their Gulf Cup final defeat by the UAE last month.

Last night, in front of 3,300 vocal supporters, Younus Mahmoud scored the only goal in what was undoubtedly a one-goal walloping.

The Al Sadd striker, who had struggled to make an impact against the stubborn Indonesian defence, struck in the 66th minute, running on to a neat through ball, outmuscling his marker and slotting the ball past Endra Prasetya in the Indonesian goal.

"In the first minute, you could see they were playing very defensive," Shaker said of the south-east Asians, ranked 67 positions below Iraq in the Fifa world rankings.

"There were always 10 players defending, this made it very hard to penetrate and we also missed some chances.

"It is a win, maybe not in the best way, but we have to be happy with that.

"If we win 1-0 and lift the cup then why not? Football is about results."

Iraq's young team was pictured in tears three weeks ago as the UAE put them to the sword in the final of the Gulf Cup, but here they played with fluidity and confidence.

Were it not for profligacy in front of goal, they could have scored five or six.

"We had total control; the players did what they were asked to do," Shaker said. "Maybe if we had managed an early goal, we would have seen a different result. This is the future of Iraqi football though, so we have to take care of them and look after them."

The Indonesian coach Nil Maizar conceded after the match he would have been happy to have left Dubai with a solitary point and the way he had set his team up, such was clear.

The Iraq goalkeeper did not have to make a save until the 82nd minute.

"My team played with good motivation and fighting spirit," Maizar said. "It was a good result because we only lost 1-0 and we hope that when we play Iraq at home, we will be able to defeat them.

"We knew they are a strong team, but we wanted to take a point.

"We thought if we could defend, then maybe the opportunity would arise to catch them on a counter-attack. We gave our all on the field, but one mistake led to one goal. That was the only difference."

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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