Jakarta: Iraq kept alive their hopes of qualifying for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup as first-half goals by Hammadi Ahmed and Kerrar Jassim gave them a 2-0 away win over Indonesia on Tuesday.
Ahmed broke the deadlock at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium with a 27th minute header and Jassim converted a penalty six minutes later as the former champions cruised to only their second victory in Group C of the Asian Cup qualifiers.
With China held to goalless draw at home by Saudi Arabia, the Iraqis moved within two points of the East Asian side. They will have the opportunity to leapfrog them into second place and secure a place in Australia if they can beat them in the final round of qualifying matches in March.
“It was a difficult match for us because of the pressure that was on our team,” said Iraq coach Hakeem Shakir.
“We were surprised by Indonesia's performance. They are a very organised team and even after conceding two goals, they still showed good form. But my players showed great fighting spirit.
“The result of China’s game means a lot for us. It benefits us as it puts China under pressure and it gives us a good chance to qualify as we will be playing against them at home.”
Playing at the venue where they lifted the Asian Cup in 2007, Iraq exerted much of the early pressure as they bombarded the Indonesians with high balls into the box.
Salam Shakir missed an early opportunity when he headed over but the Iraqi pressure finally paid off in the 27th minute when Ali Adnan’s perfectly weighted cross from the left was met in the box by Ahmed, who planted a firm header past goalkeeper I Made Wirawan.
The visitors continued to stretch the home defence and they earned a penalty in the 33rdminute after Alaa Abdulzehra was brought down in the box by Muhamad Roby. Jassim kept his cool and duly dispatched the spot kick to put Iraq two goals up.
Indonesia were an improved side in the second half but apart from going close with a 56thminute effort by Samsul Arif, they rarely threatened to narrow the deficit.
In fact it was the Iraqis who nearly extended their advantage in the 70th minute when a header by Ahmed came back off the crossbar.
“It was not the result that we expected,” said Indonesia coach Jacksen Tiago. “We tried to anticipate Iraq's tactics but we failed. We were unlucky but at least we tried our best.
“I have confidence that this team will improve and build a solid base for the national team in the future.”