The second round of matches were concluded on Day 8 with Group D coming to the fore. First game up we had Palestine v Jordan in Melbourne and as you would have expected Jordan came out on top with a 5-1 win.
However the scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story as Palestine nearly opened the scoring after five minutes when Hisham Salhi launched a lovely dipping effort on goal only to see the Jordanian keeper Amer Shafi turn the ball on to the bar and safety.
It took Jordan until the thirty third minute to open their account, Abdallah Deeb slipped the ball from right to left to feed Yusuf Ahmad on the edge of the box. He cut back on to his right foot and curled a sublime effort around Palestinian keeper Ramzi Saleh to find the far top corner of the net.
It took just one and a half minutes for Jordan to score their second and begin a remarkable sequence for their striker Hamza Al Dardour, Deeb again provided the ammo when he broke wide left stood his defender up and played a lovely ball to the far post for Al Dardour to slide in and score from a yard.
The third came in added time at the end of the first half Odai Al Saify got behind the left back for Palestine and his low centre was tapped in from three yards by Al Dardour.
Again Palestine should great resolve in the second half and held Jordan out until the seventy fifth minute when yet again Al Dardour was the scorer.
This time it was a long range effort as he took possession on the edge of the centre circle before outstripping the defence for pace and confidently finishing from around twelve yards to secure his hat trick. His night wasn’t over yet and remarkably he added a fourth just five minutes later, Oday Zehran played a beautiful defence splitting low ball into the danger area and Al Dardour had the space to sidefoot first time to the corner from six yards.
With that he became only the third player in Asian Cup history to score four goals in a single game. Palestine had time to get a consolation goal in the eighty fifth minute through Jaka Ihbeisheh which they deserved purely for perseverance.
The win means that Jordan keep their qualification hopes alive, however to do that they will have to defeat the mighty Japan in their last match or at least equal the effort of Iraq who will be playing Palestine.
The second game was Iraq v Japan in Brisbane and the favourites sneaked through with a 1-0 win courtesy of a penalty from their star player Keisuke Honda. Honda should have opened the scoring on seventeen minutes when he got on the end of Yoto Nagatomo’s cross to the far post but headed against the foot of the woodwork.
Japan’s intricate passing and movement opened up Iraq and Shinji Kagawa missed a gilt edged opportunity after Yasuhito Endo played Takashi Inui in behind the Iraqi defence through the inside left channel, his centre to the six yard box was met by Kagawa but hit straight at keeper Jalal Hassan Hachim. The rebound was gathered by Honda and as he tried to control he became the meat in a sandwich of Ali Adnan Khadim and Saad Abdulameer Al-Dobjahawe to earn the twenty second minute penalty which he put away with supreme confidence. Shinji Okazaki spurned a headed chance to increase Japans lead in the thirty third minute and the teams headed into the changing rooms at 1-0.
Japan picked up where they left off in the second half and Honda rattled the bar from twenty yards with an effort on his weaker right foot. It was that man again in the sixty fourth minute when he hit the upright again from just three yards, Hiroshi Kiotake got free down the outside left and his low powerful cross across goal was wasted by Honda.
So Japan qualify for the quarter finals and are a delight to watch even but will have to start putting away the plethora of chances they create against better teams. Iraq still have a chance of qualification as they play Palestine in their final group game and will be confident of winning.