Perth (Australia) (AFP) – Hotshots Massimo Luongo and Tomi Juric were both on target as Australia overcame a dogged Iraq outfit to win 2-0 in their 2018 World Cup qualifier on Thursday.
The home side were strong favourites but they didn’t have it all their own way until QPR’s Luongo and FC Luzern striker Juric scored in a seven-minute, second-half burst.
“It was a great way to come back today,” said Juric, who was recalled by coach Ange Postecoglou after missing Australia’s friendlies against Greece in June.
“There definitely could have been a few more (goals) on our side, but it is a great result to start this campaign.”
Although the Australians dominated possession in the first half, the Iraqis were organised in defence while occasionally threatening on the counter-attack.
Juric almost opened the scoring just 10 seconds after the start, but his shot was blocked by the hand of goalkeeper Mohammed Hameed.
Australia’s Mathew Leckie also hit the woodwork with a long-range header, while Iraq’s Ahmed Yasin was unlucky not to win a penalty when pulled down in the box by Brad Smith.
The Australians were desperate to start the final stage of qualifying with a win and the longer the match went on, the more anxious their fans were getting.
The game suddenly opened up 10 minutes into the second half, with Aaron Mooy hitting the crossbar and Australian goalkeeper Mathew Ryan forced into a save from Ali Abbas.
The ball went straight down the other end after the Ryan save and Juric inexplicably missed a peach of a chance from close range.
But just minute later, Luongo eased Aussie nerves when he got behind the Iraqi defence and was left with a relatively simple task to knock in a Juric cross and give Australia the lead after 57 minutes.
Juric had another shot well blocked in the 64th minute, but he finally got his reward from the resulting corner when he scored from close range.
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