Kewell repays fans cheers
The crowd said it (or roared more like it) all before the game, when the names were read out of the teams and to no surprise it was the Socceroos captain Harry Kewell that got the biggest cheer.
The crowd said it (or roared more like it) all before the game, when the names were read out of the teams and to no surprise it was the Socceroos captain Harry Kewell that got the biggest cheer. The noise was deafening actually.
He possibly didn-t hear the roar (as they were back in the rooms), but perhaps he sensed it and paid the fans back with a terrific performance that was capped off with the game-s only goal after 47 minutes.
The former Liverpool midfielder was at the heart of everything for Australia against Iraq in this all important World Cup qualifier, displaying just a few of special qualities that Pim Verbeek knows his star player has.
There were the shimmy-s and feints that had the Iraqi defenders double guessing; the drag backs; the vertical leaps for headers at goal and of course even the spectacular overhead attempt at goal, shortly before he came off after 77 minutes suffering from cramp.
It wasn-t among his best ever matches, but given this is just his second meaningful game in several months, it was certainly very encouraging to say the least and just what Pim Verbeek was looking for from his captain.
But Kewell was being typically modest when talking about his own performance on the night.
“It was another good work out,” he says with a laugh. “It-s nice to get another 78 minutes now I think (under his belt). It was a good game; good crowd and a good win.
“It-s always great to score a goal; set up a goal or be part of a goal. It-s a team game and that-s what we set out there to do. It was great possession; great ball and I just finished it off.”
The fact he scored the winner with his head was not unduly surprising, given how dominant he was in the air during the first half that saw him win numerous headers in the penalty box, including several shots at goal.
“They had chances, we had chances, but if we had quality strikers (having a dig at himself for several missed chances) we would have put them (Iraq) away. But it just didn-t fall for us today.
“We had a game plan; we had some great deliveries from the wide boys, but we just needed someone in the middle and I was fortunate enough that I was the one. Scott (McDonald) was making the wide runs and I stood in the middle and jumped.”
Kewell acknowledged that his team rode its luck, but praised his keeper Mark Schwarzer for keeping them out.
“I think we rode our luck,” he said. “Iraq created quite a few chances today, but we had a great keeper that stopped them and that-s what you need.”
Despite going six points clear of Iraq on the group table, Kewell says there is no way the team will become complacent and the teams aim will be to win all three remaining games.
He is also looking forward to next weeks return game in Dubai, where the extremely hot conditions will be a completely different factor compared to tonight-s match.
“I have seen teams lead the way, but get too complacent. Hopefully we won-t do that and we need to go out there and win our next three games and that-s what we will set out to do.
“It-s going to be great,” referring to next week-s game. “It will be fantastic.
“It will be difficult out there with the heat, but we-re well prepared; we know what we are going to deal with; because obviously we-ve been in Asia for a while now; so we will be well equipped (to handle the conditions).”
Verbeek was full of praise for his captain.
“He scored a great goal. That you could see when I spoke yesterday about his special extra quality that Harry has.
“It was a pity that I had to take him off, but the spaces were getting bigger and he had cramp, so OK. He was a great captain today and he did what he had to do.”