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MENAFN - Muscat Daily - 27/01/2014
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(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) With more than half the 4,200-strong crowd chanting Iraq, Iraq' at the Seeb Sports Stadium on Sunday, it was almost as if coach Hakeem al Azzawi's U22 Iraqi team was playing at home.


However, despite being heavily favoured to dominate Saudi Arabia in the title clash, the Iraqis needed a slice of luck to complete a 1-0 win and clinch the AFC U22 Championship crown.


The Iraqis stayed unbeaten in the competition, winning all six of their games.


The Saudis were left ruing a golden opportunity on the half-hour mark when Abdul Asiri botched up a penalty kick.


Three minutes later, he and his teammates were left nursing their wounds when Iraq's Mohanad Karrar pulled off a scorching shot to score the lone goal of the night and give coach Azzawi his first major crown with the side in two years.


The match began along expected lines, with the Iraqis dominating the opening 20 minutes, creating chances on a regular basis and testing Saudi Arabia's defence.


The opportunistic trio of Dhurgham Dawood, Marwan al Ajeeli and Karrar kept making inroads into the Saudi goal area with their swift passing game.


The first real chance came as early as in the fifth minute when a chipped attempt from Iraq's Waleed al Lami was warded off by Saudi keeper Ahmed al Harbi. And with that save began a busy evening for Harbi.


Saudi Arabia's next heart-in-the-mouth moment came in the eighth minute when Dawood's well-placed cross from the left gave Saif Hashim on the edge of the box ample scope to find the target.


But his low header didn't have enough steam and limply sailed into the keeper's arms.


Ajeeli was the next one to get close to scoring when his spectacular 18th minute scissor-kick from just outside the Saudi goal box went wide.


A minute later, Saudi's Saleh al Shehri was in with a chance to score against the run of play. His smart turn in the goal area and low finish, however, was well saved by the Iraqi keeper Jalal Hashim.


In the 29th minute, the Saudis were rewarded with a spot-kick when Iraq's Ali Fadhil had a handball. But Asiri's gently-floated kick hit the left post, much to the relief of Iraq's supporters in the stands.


Minutes later, the Saudis learnt how costly the penalty miss was as Karrar pulled off a hard-earned goal, snatching the ball from the midfield and running down the left side to slip the ball into the far post past two defenders and the keeper.


The break didn't change things much as a charged-up Iraq was constantly on the lookout for the goal that would seal the contest for good.


And once again, the trio of Dawood, Karrar and Ajeeli kept threatening the Saudi defence.


It was not entirely smooth sailing for Iraq though as the Saudis did get close to finding an equaliser with less than 20 minutes from the whistle.


Both Abdullah al Ammar and then Mohammed Majrashi saw their attempts on goal getting punched away by Jalal.

 






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