Oman draws 1-1 with Iraq in Asian WCup qualifier

Oman held Iraq to 1-1 in an Asian World Cup qualifier on

Tuesday, keeping alive the Gulf team’s hopes of advancing.

The draw leaves both teams tied with Australia at two points in

Group B, five behind Japan.

Oman, which also drew with Australia last week, struck in the

eighth minute when Mohammed al-Balushi headed home a cross from

Hussain Ali al-Hadhri.

Iraq star striker Younis Mahmoud equalized in the 37th from the

penalty spot. The penalty was awarded after Oman defender Abdul

al-Mukhaini was called for a handball.

Oman controlled most of the possession in the first 25 minutes

of the second half, but neither side created any clear scoring

opportunities. Oman’s best chance came when Ahmed al-Mahajiri sent

a free kick from the edge of the Iraq curling just past the post

with 19 minutes remaining.

From there, Iraq stepped up its attack. Its best chance came in

the 80th when it had a penalty appeal waved away as Mahmoud tangled

with Raed Saleh inside the area. Two minutes later, the Iraq

captain brought down the ball in the area, side-stepped a defender

and sent a shot just wide. It appeared that teammate Karrar Jasim

got in the way.

”Playing against Iraq is always difficult. But I’m satisfied

with the result, even after playing three games in a row without

much break,” Oman’s French coach Paul Le Guen said.

Iraq’s Brazilian Coach Zico said the team’s hopes of advancing

were still very much alive despite the draw.

”Chances are still there,” Zico said. ”But we need to work

hard a lot. As we’re playing with lot of seniors who’ve been there

for the last 10 years, Iraqi football needs innovation.”

Qatar served as Iraq’s home ground for Tuesday’s match. FIFA has

banned Iraq from hosting international matches because of safety

concerns in the war-torn country.

The temperature for much of the match was above 40 degrees

Celsius (104 F), since Iraq didn’t have the luxury that Qatar had

last week of playing in the country’s only air-conditioned

stadium.