Local Goa News

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Iraq upstage Japan, sail into AFC U-16 final

Panaji: Iraq staged a grand rally after falling into arrears, to snuff the challenge out of fancied Japan 4-2, the winning goals coming from penalty strikes in the dying minutes of the encounter, in the first semifinals of the AFC U-16 Football Championships India 2016 at the GMC Stadium, Bambolim, on Thursday.
Both teams showed maturity beyond their age, calmness even under pressure and produced exciting football. Their passing, tackling, distribution and off-the-ball running were all of a high order. They used the width of the pitch from flank to flank and mixed long balls with short passes cleverly.

If Japan lost the plot, it was of their own making. Not only did they lose balls in midfield battles which was their hallmark until this clash, but some wayward passing allowed Iraq to put their foot in the doorway.
Iraq had a strategy of their own. They tightened the screws on Japan’s midfield domination, while they defended resolutely. But it was their change in strategy in the second half that turned things around. They engaged in the aerial route with the advent of Alaa Adnan Jabbar, twelve minutes into the second half.
The lean striker appeared to be strong in the air and struck a perfect rhythm with co-striker Mohammed Dawood. The two not only looked to be in sync but shook off their markers even as midfielders Muntadher Mohammed and Habeeb Mohammed Khalaf Ahele kept harnessing them with long balls, a strategy that paid off eventually.
The first quarter hour was more of a wait and watch game, as they prodded and probed for weakness in each other’s defence. It was not until the 18th minute that either team produced any goalmouth action.
A weak clearance header from Japanese defender Yukinari Sugawara saw the ball land a few feet away from Mohammed Dawood. The nippy Iraq midfielder, pounced at the opportunity, picked the ball, veered to the right and unleashed a powerful waist high volley. The ball took goalkeeper Tani Kosei by surprise as it deflected off a defender and lodged itself into the corner of the net.
Japan retaliated 10 minutes later when Hiroto Yamada pounced on a piercing Taisei Miyashiro through from the right and slammed home. The two combined yet again, in the 41st minute , this time Hiroto playing provider and Taisei giving the finishing touches to put Japan into the lead.
Iraq made two early changes after the lemon break. Jabbar being the pick of the two as he slipped into sync with striker Mohammed Dawood and changed the script of the match.
Iraq kept pumping long balls to Dawood and Jabbar as they switched positions to unsettle the Japanese defence and eventually found a breakthrough in the 66th minute. Muntadher Abdulsada slammed home Muntadher Mohammed’s low piercing through from the right to level scores.
Then came moments of madness in the 80th and 93rd minutes when first, Seko brought down Mohammed and later, Kida Hinata floored Jabbar in the penalty area respectively. Mohammed Dawood comfortably converted both attempts to give Iraq a comfortable 4-2 victory and a place in the final.

TOI Goa News

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