Uzbekistan receive a 1-0 defeat from Iraq in Tashkent

Appearing in only his second senior match for Iraq, Kareem opened his national team account shortly after being introduced as a half-time substitute, giving Srecko Katanec’s side a lead they would never relinquish.

The fixture was used for much-needed match practice ahead of June’s remaining Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023, with both Iraq and Uzbekistan well in contention to advance to the Third Round.

With Eldor Shomurodov, Jaloliddin Masharipov and the recalled Sardor Rashidov all starting, Uzbekistan head coach Vadim Abramov named a line-up featuring some his most potent attacking weapons, but despite a confident start the hosts found Iraq’s organised defence tricky to break down.

Abramov’s men had largely controlled matters in Friday’s 2-1 win over Ghana B in Namangan, but Iraq were a more challenging proposition, keeping Uzbekistan at bay despite the constant threat of Masharipov, and causing problems of their own with speedy counter-attacks.

Speed and simplicity were at the heart of both of the best chances of the first half – both of which fell to Iraq’s Basher Resan – with the former Persepolis star guilty of squandering the clearest opportunity when he dragged a lob wide when one on one with Uzbekistan’s 20-year-old goalkeeper Abduvokhid Nematov in the final minutes before the interval.

Shomurodov skipped into action early in the second half, forcing Jalal Hasan into a low save, but it would be a less heralded forward who broke the game open, with Kareem impressively steering the ball into the back of the net in the 55th minute.

On as a substitute just moments earlier, the 24-year-old reacted quickest after Nematov spilled a long-range effort from Alaa Ali Mhawi before beating the FC Nasaf shot-stopper with a firmly struck low drive.

A super save from Nematov denied Mohammed Qasim to keep Uzbekistan within striking distance with 20 minutes remaining, but despite a heightened sense of urgency and number of half-chances, the hosts failed to find an equaliser, with Shomurodov blasting an 18-yard volley just inches over the crossbar in one of their final opportunities.

Currently on top of Group C of the Asian Qualifiers, Iraq will resume their campaign in Bahrain in June, while Uzbekistan will travel to Saudi Arabia to resume their Group D bid to reach a first ever senior FIFA World Cup.

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