Australia have booked their place in the AFC Asian Cup semi finals with a last gasp winner in extra time from Harry Kewell. After a tense affair against holders Iraq dominated largely by the Socceroos, it took extra time to separate the two sides.

The Socceroos looked hungry from the starting whistle, and immediately piled the pressure on the Iraqi goal. Great early chances to Brett Holman and Matt Mckay were squandered, and Kewell was also wasteful early on with his attempted chip when through on goal drifting harmlessly over the bar.

Australia welcomed back utilities David Carney and Luke Wilkshire to the starting lineup and they returned some much needed stability to the flanks, limiting Iraq’s wide supply lines.

Australia’s poor finishing was almost punished however in the 55th minute when Emad Mohammed was played in on goal by the dangerous Iraqi captain Younes Mahmood, but he dragged shit shot wide with just Schwarzer to beat.

Mile Jedinak did his best to repeat his recent goalscoring exploits with another fierce drive from long range, this time on his less favoured left foot but Iraqi ‘keeper Kassid was equal to it.

Australia continued to dominate proceedings in the second half, but looked increasingly vulnerable on the counter and only the brilliance of Schwarzer kept the sides on level terms with a great save in a frantic final few minutes of regular time.

It was end to end stuff, and the Socceroos continued to look threatening from set pieces. Sasa Ognenovski almost sent Australian fans into raptures with a superb overhead kick that looked destined for the top corner, only for Jedinak to head the goalbound effort over.

The game could not be won by either side in regular time, and extra time was needed to decide who would play Uzbekistan in the semi finals.

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Chances fell to both sides as fatigue set in and the game opened up. Nashat Akram had Australian hearts in mouths with a belting long range shot that flew just wide.

Just as the game looked destined for the lottery of penalties, Australia’s golden boy Harry Kewell hauled the Socceroos into the next round with a terrific header in the 118th minute. The impressive Matt Mckay who started on the left flank drifted a perfectly weighted deep cross into the area that found Kewell between two defenders, and the Galatasaray man made no mistake.

Despite tired legs and cramping, the Australians managed to hold on for the win, one they will feel they thoroughly deserved on the balance of play.

The Socceroos now move into uncharted territory, as they face Uzbekistan in the semi finals of the AFC Asian Cup, something the men’s side have not yet achieved in this competition. With the prospect of either Japan or South Korea waiting in the final, Australian fans will be hoping the Socceroos can match the heroics of the Matilda’s, but focus must now switch to the talented Uzbek’s.

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