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Football: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain qualify for AFC Asian Cup; China win

Nassir Al Shamrani scores in Saudi Arabia’s 2-1 home win over Iraq that secured the three-time AFC Asian Cup winners a place at Australia 2015. Photos: AFP.

Nassir Al Shamrani (centre) scores in Saudi Arabia’s 2-1 home win over Iraq that secured the three-time AFC Asian Cup winners a place at Australia 2015. Photos: AFP.

November 16, 2013: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates all booked their places at the AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 with qualifying victories over Iraq, Malaysia and Hong Kong respectively on Friday evening.

 

Iran moved four points clear at the top of Group B with a 3-0 win in Thailand, while China, Uzbekistan and Qatar each won to move second in their groups behind Saudi Arabia (Group C), Bahrain (Group D) and UAE (Group E) respectively.

 

Saudi Arabia, three-time winners of the competition, beat 2007 champions Iraq 2-1 in Dammam to continue their record of qualifying for the finals every year since 1984.

 

Nassir Al Shamrani scored Saudi Arabia’s winner after Younus Mahmood equalised on the stroke of half-time following Tassir Al Jassam’s opener in the 17th minute to maintain the nation’s 100 per cent record in qualifying for Australia 2015.

 

Saudi Arabia coach Juan Lopez Caro said: “I want to congratulate all Saudi fans for this victory and thank them for their support tonight. They helped us a lot to achieve this victory and motivated the players a lot in order to get the three points.

 

“All the players performed well tonight and played with great fighting spirit. Iraq are a good side and they didn’t make things easy for us, especially as they were strong in the physical encounters. However, the spirit of our players helped us to get a good victory at the end.”

 

The result leaves Iraq in danger of missing out on a place in the finals as China moved into second place in Group C after a 1-0 win over Indonesia in Xi’an, through a first-half header from Wu Lei.

 

Wu Lei (right), China’s scorer, challenges Indonesia goalkeeper Made Wirawan as China won 1-0 in Xian to move to second in Group C. China next face Saudi Arabia in Xian on Tuesday.

Wu Lei (right), China’s scorer, challenges Indonesia goalkeeper Made Wirawan as China won 1-0 in Xi’an to move to second place in Group C, three points ahead of Iraq. China face Saudi Arabia in Xi’an on Tuesday.

The UAE’s second consecutive 4-0 win over Hong Kong secured their spot in the finals with two qualifiers remaining. Salem Al Rejaibi and Walid Abbas scored in the first half and Omar Abdulrahman and Ismail Al Hammadi added late goals at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

 

“We are happy to have qualified for the Asian Cup finals and we have 24 players who all contributed and helped us to reach this far,” said UAE coach Mahdi Ali.

 

“The match was good from our side. We now have a good image and everyone now knows we’re a good team. That’s why our opponents usually play with a defensive formation and we knew we would face such tactics.”

 

Uzbekistan beat Vietnam 3-0 in Hanoi to move to seven points, three clear of Hong Kong, who they will play on Tuesday in the penultimate round of fixtures.

 

Ismail Abdulatif scored as Bahrain – semi-finalists in 2004 – saw off a determined Malaysia 1-0 in Group D to seal their progress to the finals for the fourth tournament in a row.

 

In Group B, Iran will have to wait until Tuesday to confirm their place in the finals, despite winning 3-0 against Thailand at Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok.

 

In Group A, Syria rekindled their hopes with a 4-0 defeat of Singapore to notch up their first win and move to within a point of Jordan, whose meeting with group leaders Oman was postponed due to their involvement in 2014 FIFA World Cup playoffs.

 

For more information, visit www.afcasiancup.com

For schedule and results, visit: www.the-afc.com/en/afc-asian-cup-schedule-a-results

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