Katanec hails Tareq impact following late win
Abu Dhabi: Head coach Srečko Katanec has revealed his delight after Humam Tareq came off the bench to help inspire Iraq to a vital 3-2 win over Vietnam in Group D of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 on Tuesday.
Originally named as a substitute, the livewire Tareq was brought on in the 58th minute and duly netted a vital equaliser just two minutes later courtesy of a thunderous finish.
With the Esteghlal star to the fore, Iraq pressed for a winner and their persistence paid handsome dividends when Ali Adnan converted a last gasp free-kick to seal all three points for the Lions of Mesopotamia.
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“Honestly, it was entirely my mistake that I put him [Tareq] on the bench and he was undoubtedly the key player,” a relieved Katanec said of the 22-year-old.
“He gave us energy and he scored the equaliser. He did everything. Every team needs a player like this, without energy you have nothing.
“In the first half we were lacking in just that and did not have one player who was willing to push and push. His attitude was excellent.”
The victory saw Iraq go second in the group behind the Islamic Republic of Iran, although Katanec, with one eye already on Saturday’s fixture against Yemen, was quick to declare that his side must improve if they are to stand any chance of progressing further in the tournament they won in 2007.
“I expected a tough and very difficult match, and in the first half we played badly, but after the break I believe we were the better team,” he explained.
“It is very important to get three points in the [group stage] of this tournament. It was tough at times, and I made some mistakes and I learned a lot from this game, but I know we will develop as the competition goes on.
“If I am honest though, we also need to be even better than we were in the second half which was obviously better than the first. We have many things to improve and I hope our second game will be better. I saw today who can and cannot play going forward, who is in a good condition and who is not.”
Meanwhile, opposite number Park Hang-seo was left to reflect on what could have been for Vietnam given that the Southeast Asians were leading twice in a game that repeatedly swung one way and then the other.
“Even though we lost, I think my players played well and did their best,” he said.
“We already knew that Iraq were at a higher physical and technical level than us, but we did well. Of course, I regret the last goal we conceded from a free-kick, but overall my team played well and fought hard although I do think Iraq probably deserved the win.”
Vietnam will look to put their campaign back on track when they face the Islamic Republic of Iran on Saturday, although Park is expecting another tough test for the team who were recently crowned AFF Cup champions.
“We planned to at least get one point from this game with Iraq, because our next game is against Iran who are one of the favourites in this competition,” he said.
“We must now review our performance and prepare well. Iran are a very strong side and we know that we must be at our very best when we play them.”
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