Juric shines as Australia down Iraq in Perth
PERTH: Tomi Juric created one goal and scored another inside six second-half minutes as Australia made a confident start to the third round of Asian World Cup qualifying with a 2-0 victory over Iraq on Thursday.
The Asian champions, aiming for a fourth straight appearance at the finals in Russia in 2018, always looked the stronger side but it was not until just before the hour mark that midfielder Massimo Luongo broke the deadlock at the Perth Oval.
There were signs that the breakthrough was coming when Aaron Mooy hit the crossbar from the edge of the area and Juric almost immediately contrived to miss an open goal from close range.
The Socceroos, favourites along with Japan to book the two automatic qualifying spots from Group B, dominated the rest of the match but were unable to add to their goal tally.
Iraq, who have had just one finals campaign back in 1986, were always a threat on the break and had what looked like a legitimate penalty claim in the first half when Brad Smith pulled back the lively Ahmed Yaseen.
Australia had the best chances before the break and Mathew Leckie almost opened the scoring from Smith's cross in the 28th minute only for his looping header to spin off the upright.