Saudi boss sacked as Iraq march on
CHENGDU, China, July 26 (Reuters) - Iraq knocked Saudi Arabia out of the Asian Cup with a 2-1 victory over the three-times winners on Monday, a result that cost Saudi coach Gerard van der Lem his job.
Substitute Younis Mahmoud scored an 87th-minute winner as the Iraqis finished second behind Uzbekistan in Group C and advanced to the quarter-finals.
Dutchman Van der Lem was dismissed minutes after the game, becoming the 13th manager to be sacked by Saudi Arabia in the last 10 years.
The 51-year-old presided over a 19-match unbeaten run after taking over following Saudi Arabia's miserable 2002 World Cup campaign.
The writing was on the wall, however, after a 1-0 defeat by Uzbekistan left them with one point from their first two Asian Cup games, and Van der Lem became involved in a heated exchange with Saudi journalists at his post-match news conference.
His dismissal was confirmed by a team official. Saudi Arabia had reached the last five Asian Cup finals, winning the tournament in 1984, 1988 and 1996.
Iraq will play hosts China in Beijing on Friday while Uzbekistan face Group A runners-up Bahrain in Chengdu.
Saudi-based midfielder Nashat Akram put Iraq in front with a clinical left-foot finish in the 51st minute of a bad-tempered encounter.
Defender Hamad Al Montashari gave Saudi Arabia a life-line six minutes later, arriving at the back post to head in a flick-on from Ibrahim Sowed.
But Mahmoud pounced three minutes from time to give Iraq a deserved winner, sliding the ball into an empty net after Saudi goalkeeper Mansour Al Naje had parried a shot from Qusay Munir.
Iraq finished on six points from three games after a 1-0 defeat by Uzbekistan and a 3-2 victory over Turkmenistan in their previous games.
Uzbekistan beat Turkmenistan 1-0 in a clash of former Soviet republics to finish with a perfect nine points.
Saudi Arabia finished bottom of the group with one point, below Turkmenistan on goals scored.
Van der Lem's dismissal continued a trend followed recently by SAFF officials. They sacked Czech Milan Macala after a 4-1 defeat by eventual winners Japan in their first match at the 2000 Asian Cup.
At the 1998 World Cup, current Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira was fired two games into the tournament after his team were thrashed 4-0 by hosts and eventual winners France.