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Football: Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE close in on 2015 Asian Cup berths

Jalal Hosseini scores for Iran in their 2-1 win over Thailand in Tehran, which put the 2014 World Cup contenders top of Group B in Asian Cup qualifying. Photo: AFP.

Jalal Hosseini scores for Iran in their 2-1 win over Thailand in Tehran, which put the 2014 World Cup contenders top of Group B in Asian Cup qualifying. Photo: AFP.

October 16, 2013: Three-time AFC Asian Cup winners Saudi Arabia and former finalists UAE maintained their perfect records in qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup on Tuesday evening with victories over Iraq and Hong Kong respectively that took them a step closer to booking their berths at Australia 2015.

 

Saudi Arabia, who won the title in 1984, 1988 and 1996, beat Iraq 2-0 in the neutral venue of Amman, Jordan, through goals from Osama Hawsawi and Nasser Al Shamrani. At the halfway mark of qualifying, Juan Lopez Caro’s side have a five-point lead in Group C over China, who drew 1-1 with Indonesia in Jakarta.

 

“I thank all the players for their impressive performance as the win was really important to get us closer to qualifying for the Asian Cup,” Lopez Caro said. “It added a lot for us and our position now is good. Hopefully we can continue to be at the top of the group.”

 

In Group E, Ali Mabkhout scored a hat-trick as the UAE moved within touching distance of the finals after a 4-0 win over Hong Kong lifted the Gulf Cup champions five points clear of Hong Kong and Uzbekistan, who scored three times in the second half to beat Vietnam 3-1.

 

Walid Abbas was also on target at Hong Kong Stadium as the Emirates maintained their perfect record with a third consecutive win, having earlier beaten Vietnam and 2011 finalists Uzbekistan, with three games remaining.

 

“We have accomplished the third step in this qualification. We have three steps to go and we are near to qualifying, but in football you never know,” said UAE coach Mahdi Ali. “When you say you will win, they’re easy words to say, but to win on the field isn’t so easy. We played well today and I hope that we can continue to play like this.”

 

The UAE will seal qualification for the finals with two games to spare if they can beat Hong Kong in Abu Dhabi next month, when Uzbekistan travel to Hanoi to face Vietnam.

 

In Group B, three-time Asian Cup winners Iran maintained their unbeaten start with a 2-1 win over Thailand that moved Carlos Queiroz’s side two points clear of Kuwait, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Lebanon in Beirut. Iran lead the group with seven points, with Kuwait on five and Lebanon a point further back.

 

In Group D, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha equalised with 20 minutes remaining as Malaysia denied Bahrain a third straight win in Group D with a 1-1 draw at Shah Alam Stadium. Bahrain moved a point clear of 2011 hosts Qatar, who beat Yemen 6-0 on Sunday, with Malaysia two points further adrift.

 

In Group A, Oman stayed in pole position despite being held to a 0-0 draw by Jordan, with Paul Le Guen’s team holding a two-point lead over the Jordanians. Singapore moved to third after their surprise 2-1 home success against Syria.

 

The next round of qualifiers will be on November 15. Saudi Arabia and the UAE could become the first teams to progress through qualifying and join hosts Australia, defending champions Japan, Korea Republic and DPR Korea at the continental championship, which will be held from January 9-31, 2015.

 

Source: WSG. For more information, visit www.afcasiancup.com

 

AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 qualifiers – Match Day 3: October 15, 2013

 

Group A – Singapore 2-1 Syria, Jalan Besar Stadium, Singapore

Group A – Jordan 0-0 Oman, King Abdullah International Stadium, Amman

 

Group B – Lebanon 1-1 Kuwait, Sports City Stadium, Beirut

Group B – Iran 2-1 Thailand, Azadi Stadium, Tehran

 

Group C – Indonesia 1-1 China, Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, Jakarta

Group C – Iraq 0-2 Saudi Arabia, Amman International Stadium, Amman, Jordan

 

Group D – Qatar 6-0 Yemen, Al Gharafa Stadium, Doha (October 13, 2013)

Group D – Malaysia 1-1 Bahrain, Shah Alam Stadium, Shah Alam

 

Group E – Hong Kong 0-4 UAE, Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong

Group E – Uzbekistan 3-1 Vietnam, Pakhtakor Stadium, Tashkent

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