Iraq 2 Palestine 0: Captain Mahmoud helps makes sure of qualification
Iraq made certain of a place in the Asian Cup quarter-finals with a 2-0 victory over Palestine in Canberra on Tuesday.
Japan's 2-0 win against Jordan meant that the result, in the end, did not alter the 2007 champions' standing in Group D, but the runners-up made hard work of beating a Palestine side who had conceded nine goals in their opening two fixtures.
Despite dominating possession and chances in the opening period, Iraq struggled to find way past goalkeeper Tawfiq Ali – making his first appearance of the tournament.
However, a bright start to the second half brought reward for Radhi Shenaishil's men, with Younis Mahmoud heading in from a corner after 48 minutes.
The captain had a chance to double his tally shortly before the hour mark when Iraq benefited from a questionable penalty decision, but Ali capped his impressive display by saving the spot-kick.
The goalkeeper was finally beaten for a second time in the 88th minute, as Ahmed Yasin made the points, and progression, safe for Iraq.
They will now meet Iran in the last eight, with group winners Japan going on to face United Arab Emirates.
Palestine made seven changes to the side that lost 5-1 to Jordan last time out and immediately came under pressure at the back, with Justin Meram barging his way into the penalty area before sending a weak effort into the arms of Ali.
Saad Abdulameer required treatment following a collision with Ali in the 11th minute, and a determined Palestinian back line frustrated Iraq for much of the opening period.
Yasin diverted the ball wide from a corner as Iraq pushed, before Palestine went even closer at the other end - with several players unable to get a decisive touch in a goalmouth scramble.
The game opened up as the half progressed, and Waleed Salim drew a diving save from Ali with a driven shot from distance that bounced just in front of the goalkeeper.
Dhurgham Ismail fired just over as Iraq failed to cap a swift counter-attacking move with a goal, and Yaser Kasim's effort on the half-hour mark could only sting the hands of Ali.
The shot-stopper kept out a header from Mahmoud as the match approached half-time, and the Iraq captain – without a club side since leaving Saudi Arabia's Al Ahli in 2013 - fired wide a few moments after the restart.
However, Mahmoud finally got his goal in the 48th minute, powering home a header from substitute Ali Adnan's corner for his first of the tournament.
Palestine should have been level within a minute, but Jalal Hassan Hachim got down well to keep out Ashraf Nu'man Al-Fawaghra's effort when one-on-one.
Yasin worked his way into area only to see an effort blocked by Ali, and the goalkeeper was on hand once again to keep out Iraq's golden 59th-minute opportunity from the penalty spot.
Ahmed Harbi was harshly penalised for bringing down Meram just inside the area – despite being the last man, the Palestine defender escaped with a booking – but Mahmoud could not find the net.
That missed chance mattered little, however, with Yasin burying a low effort from the edge of the box two minutes from time after being teed up by Salim.