Juric scores, inspires Aussies breakthrough

PERTH • Tomi Juric created one goal and scored another inside six second-half minutes, as Australia made a confident start to their third round of Asian World Cup qualifying with a 2-0 win over Iraq yesterday.

The Asian champions, aiming for a fourth straight appearance at the Finals in 2018, always looked the stronger side. But it was not until the 58th minute that midfielder Massimo Luongo broke the deadlock at the Perth Oval.

There were signs that the breakthrough was coming when Aaron Mooy hit the crossbar from the edge of the area, and Juric almost immediately contrived to miss an open goal from close range.

The Socceroos did not spurn a third chance in three minutes, however, and Luongo smashed the ball into the roof of the net after Juric had beaten his defender and drilled the ball across the face of the goal.

Juric made further amends for his miss after 64 minutes, when Mark Milligan flicked on a corner for the FC Luzern striker to poke the ball into the net.

"We put in a good performance tonight, there could have been a few more on our side but unfortunately they didn't go in," said Juric.

"I'm glad I got on the scoresheet with a goal and an assist but more importantly we got three points."

The Socceroos, favourites along with Japan to book the two automatic qualifying spots from Group B, dominated the rest of the match but were unable to score more.

Iraq, who have had just one Finals campaign back in 1986, had what looked like a legitimate penalty claim in the first half when Brad Smith pulled back Ahmed Yaseen.

The result - if not the performance - will please Australia manager Ange Postecoglou, who spoke of the importance of winning home games during this decisive qualifying group stage.

Sterner tests await for his side, including the United Arab Emirates next Tuesday in Abu Dhabi.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2016, with the headline 'Juric scores, inspires Aussies breakthrough'. Print Edition | Subscribe