The Titan clash between fierce rivals Saudi Arabia and Iraq proved to be a tense affair with neither team able to dominate the opposition. Iraq started the game off strongly, holding the majority of possession and playing in the opposition half. However, they were unable to capitalise on this as they struggled to create any real chances. Both Hussain Ali and Bashar Resan had quiet games, where they featured behind Ibrahim Bayesh, who started ahead of Farhan Shakor.
Alaa Mhwai occupied a position higher up the pitch than usual, where he acted as a right winger. The best performer on the pitch, his pressing and hard work nearly plaid off in the first half. Having chased a loose ball, his cross failed to find Hamza Adnan, who was unable to convert. Indeed, Hamza struggled match his excellent performance against Malaysia.
Saudi Arabia grew into the game and the first half ended on equal terms. Both teams were unable to create any meaningful chances and neither goalkeeper had much to deal with in the initial 45 minutes.
Iraq hit the ground running in the second half, with Alaa mhawi once again leading the attacks. Saudi quickly adjusted their tactics and doubled up on Iraq’s right flank to eliminate the danger. Iraq struggled to cope with this and Abdulghani Shahad should have made a tactical adjustment to stretch the game from opposing flanks. Hussain Ali barely touched the ball all game, as did Bashar Resan. Amjad Atwan was another who struggled to dominate the midfield and recycle the ball for the attackers to make the necessary damage. The striker failed to receive any meaningful chances all game as a result.
Farhan Shakor should have come on in the second half. Playing with two strikers on the pitch would have opened the midfield space, giving more time for the likes of Bashar to run with the ball and find the killer pass. Instead, playing with only one striker allowed Saudi Arabia to press high and close the gap between the midfield and defence, making it impossible for the attacking midfielders to create anything in the final third.
Likewise, there should have been less emphasis on Alaa being Iraq’s only attacking outlet all game. The left hand side of the pitch was rarely used and should have been utilised much better than it was.
The tactics used all game were unnecessarily conservative, with the manager playing it safe rather than going for a win against Iraq’s bitter rivals. The tactical changes made came too late into the game and Iraq were unable to find the winning goal late on. A draw leaves Iraq in a fairly comfortable position, where they lead their group on 4 points. The final group fixture sees Iraq take on neighbours Jordan, where a draw should be enough to take Iraq through to the next round.
Man Of The Match: Alaa Mhawi