The Iraqi Premier League is finally back and it hasn’t disappointed with a week that included great strikes, late dramas, and even health problems! Al-Shorta and Al-Zawraa share first position in the table, while Al-Hussein and Al-Hudood find themselves at the wrong end of the standings. Below is a detailed report of all the games.
The match that kicked off the league was between Al-Najaf and newly-promoted Al-Karkh. The highlight of the match was Al-Najaf’s brilliant fans who showed up in the thousands, despite the game being played in 45 degrees Celsius heat in the afternoon. Al-Karkh made plenty of great passing plays, which was a breath of fresh air to the Iraqi League. However, they lacked the finishing touches and wasted a number of opportunities to go ahead. Al-Najaf took the lead through Yasser Abdul-Muhsen in the 20th minute. The Yellow Submarine continued to threaten the hosts and found an equalizer through midfielder Mohammed Khalil in the 35th minute. The second half saw a drop in quality as both teams struggled with fitness, leading to them sharing the spoils.
Erbil marked their return to the league with an impressive comeback from 2-0 down to salvage a point against Al-Naft.
Mohammed Dawood only needed 18 minutes to open the scoring from the penalty spot, and his side mainly controlled the first half, however they failed to capitalise further and went into the break 1-0 up. Erbil came out strong after the break and started to create a number of dangerous chances but were punished as Emad Abdul-Zahra finished off a counter-attack to put the Baghdad-based team 2-0 up. Erbil weren’t discouraged and continued to pressure Al-Naft, eventually being awarded a penalty in the 70th minute, which was successfully put away by Brazilian Thiago Amaral. The Yellow Castle continued to push on for a goal by dominating the play. Finally, Waleed Bahar scored an equaliser right at the death and the team headed back with a valuable point.
In Baghdad, Al-Bahri and Amanat Baghdad played out the first 0-0 draw of the season. The game saw the home side control most of the possession but were unable to create any meaningful chances. Al-Bahri were happy to take a draw away from home, in a season where they may face trouble to stay in the league. Amanat Baghdad, however, were disappointed with their start, and their lack of firepower may once again prove to be their downfall. Dropping points against sides that they are expected to beat will severely hurt their chances of success.
AFC Cup winners Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya were the first team to walk away with all three points this season. Basim Qasim’s men faced a defensively-organised Al-Sinaat Al-Kahrabaiya who were tough to break down. Al-Jawiya’s midfield failed to create any chances for their strikers. Hammadi Ahmed and Emad Mohsen struggled as the pair were isolated due to the home side’s brilliant defensive set-up. As the Falcons were getting frustrated with their failure to find a breakthrough Ali Husni stepped up with a brilliant solo goal to win all three points for Al-Jawiya.
Baghdad’s struggling giant Al-Talaba started the season with a disappointing draw against Al-Diwaniya. Al-Talaba went behind early on in the game thanks to a fantastic volley by Ahmed Abdul-Razzaq. Yahya Alwan’s men missed plenty of chances to equalise but finally got their goal late in the first half when Ali Lateef scored a free-kick. The second half saw Al-Talaba creating few chances while Al-Diwaniya were happy to sit back and settle for a point. Al-Diwaniya fans were delighted with the away point from a historic opposition. Meanwhile, Yahya Alwan assured the fans that despite the unfavourable result, Al-Talaba will make their fans proud in this season’s campaign.
From one struggling giant to another, Al-Minaa held Al-Samawa to a 0-0 draw. Al-Minaa were on the back foot for the entire game and almost went behind in the second half if it wasn’t for a brilliant goal-line clearance. Al-Minaa were content with the draw considering the tough financial circumstances that the club is going through. The team and manager only had five days of pre-season and star players Mustafa Kareem and Ameer Sabah left the team due to not receiving wages. Al-Minaa manager Aqeel Hato called it “career suicide” when asked about taking the job. Aqeel made it clear that he only took out of loyalty to the club.
The marquee match of the week saw former champions Naft Al-Wasat take on giants Al-Shorta in Al-Shaab Stadium. The game proved to be a successful debut for Montenegrin manger Jovović. Al-Shorta dominated most of the game and took the lead through Mahdi Kamil after the hour mark. Senegalese striker Alassane Diallo scored six minutes later to mark a fantastic debut. Naft Al-Wasat tried to get back in the game and almost did in the 89th minute but Salih Sadeer’s penalty was brilliantly saved by Mohammed Hammed.
In the mid-table clash between Naft Maysan and Al-Kahrabaa, last season’s top goalscorer Wissam Saadoun proved himself to be vital again. The Falcons of the Kingdom took the lead through debutant Thamer Bargash in the 54th minute, before Saadoun doubled the scoring six minutes later. Al-Kahrabaa pushed to get back in the game and scored in the 80th minute through Murad Mohammed. However, it was too little too late as Naft Maysan returned home with all three points.
Finally, last season’s champions Al-Zawraa kicked off their title defence with a victory against Al-Hudood. The visitors proved difficult to break down as they held the champions to a 0-0 draw at half-time. As the home fans were getting frustrated, Ayoub Odisho brought on midfielder Haider Ahmed and Mohammed Jalil. Both players scored impressive strike from outside the box to get Al-Zawraa on a winning start.
It seems to be a tradition in the league that a game will get postponed for a bizarre reason. This year that incident came earlier than usual. The match between Al-Hussein and Naft Al-Junoob was postponed to a later date as eight Al-Hussein players were hospitalised due to the contaminated water in Basra. A date for the match is yet to be determined by the Iraq FA.
To stay up to date on the Iraqi Premier League, follow @SoccerIraq on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!