Goa: Goa: A hat-trick from Mohammed Dawood saw Iraq end Japan’s 100% record and secure their place in the final of the AFC U-16 Championship India 2016 after an action-packed 4-2 victory over the two-time winners at GMC Stadium on Thursday.
Having netted both goals in Monday’s quarter-final win over Uzbekistan, striker Dawood gave his side the lead inside 20 minutes before a Hiroto Yamada double switched the advantage Japan’s way before half-time.
Yoshiro Moriyama’s side passed up several chances in the opening period of the second half and Muntadher Abdulsada punished their wastefulness with the leveller on 66 minutes before Dawood converted twice from the penalty spot to complete his treble and send Qahtan Chitheer’s side into Sunday’s final
Japan had not conceded in 360 minutes of football ahead of the last four clash but it took Iraq 18 minutes to break their run of clean sheets.
The ball broke to Dawood inside the penalty area and his shot from the angle took a crucial deflection of Ayumu Seko that saw the ball loop over the wrong-footed Japan ‘keeper Kosei Tani.
The East Asians replied just before the half hour mark, though, as Rei Hirakawa picked out Yamada on the right side of the box and the forward steered a fine effort across Ali Ibadi into the far corner.
And with just three minutes of the half remaining, Japan had completed the turnaround. Yamada’s low cross from the left evaded defenders, attackers and a flat-footed Ibadi alike to roll inside the custodian’s left-hand post to make the score 2-1 at the break.
In the second half, Japan continued on top and Iraq were indebted to their goalkeeper five minutes after the restart. Toichi Suzuki’s cross from the left was only cleared as far as Taisei Miyashiro but Ibadi adjusted his position instantly to divert the resulting shot wide.
Miyashiro had the Iraq custodian beaten on 55 minutes, after weaving his way into the area, but was denied Japan’s third as he thumped his rising shot against the crossbar.
The same player then passed up a second opportunity to double Japan’s advantage and Iraq punished the profligacy.
On 66 minutes, Muntadher Mohammed’s free-kick into the area was not cleared and when the ball was returned to the midfielder for a second bite at the cherry he found defender Abdulsada who fired home from close-range to restore parity.
Ibadi then saved with his knees after substitute Keito Nakamura weaved his way into the area, before Seko cleared off the line as Dawood rounded Tani with the action switching from end to end.
But with 11 minutes remaining, Iraq found the crucial third as Dawood was brought down in the area by Seko and the same player dusted himself off to fire past Tani into the roof of the net.
And in injury time, Iraq were awarded a second spot-kick as Hinata Kida brought down Dawood and the forward showed just as much composure as he had from the previous penalty kick, powering the ball home to book his nation’s place in the tournament finale.