Last updated: 15 November, 2013

Football: UAE, Bahrain and Saudi reach Asian Cup

The UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia booked their tickets to the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia with victories in their qualifying group games on Friday.

Goals by Salem Saleh, Walid Abbas, Omar Abdulrahman and Ismail Hamadi saw the UAE ease past Hong Kong 4-0in their Group E clash in Abu Dhabi.

The UAE, who led 2-0 at half-time, maintained their 100 per cent win record to qualify for their fourth consecutive Asian Cup.

Bahrain too sealed their spot in the quadrennial tournament, grinding out a 1-0 win over Malaysia in Manama.

Ismail Abdullatif struck the only goal of the Group D match in the 72nd minute as Bahrain remained top of Group D with 10 points, one ahead of second-placed Qatar, who beat Yemen 4-1 in Al Ain.

Qatar, who thrashed the Yemenis 6-0 in Doha last month, went ahead through Uruguay-born Sebastian Soria in the third minute, but Yemen equalized in the 25th through Ala al-Sasi.

However, the promising Hassan Abdelkarim made it 2-1 with a 31st minute strike before Mohamed Kasola (55) and a Mohamed Jeddo (67) completed the rout.

Saudi Arabia also ensured their passage, beating Iraq 2-1 in their Group C clash. The Saudis took the lead through Tayseer al-Jassim in the 18th minute before Younis Mahmoud equalised for the Iraqis seconds before the end of the first half.

Salman al-Faraj then struck in the 60th minute to help Saudi Arabia seal victory.

Earlier, highly-rated midfielder Wu Lei grabbed a priceless winner as China beat Indonesia 1-0 to breathe life into their qualifying campaign.

Wu, 21, tagged “China’s Maradona” after his emergence as a teenager, was on target just before half-time at Xian’s Shanxi Stadium to maintain China’s second spot in Group C.

China’s campaign was listing after last month’s disappointing away draw with bottom side Indonesia, making victory imperative ahead of Tuesday’s game against Saudi Arabia.

The national team, under caretaker coach Fu Bo since the sacking of Jose Antonio Camacho, were also under pressure to live up to Guangzhou Evergrande’s AFC Champions League victory last week.

China, hosts and runners-up in 2004, have a spotless record of reaching 11 successive Asian Cup tournaments ahead of the next edition in Australia in early 2015.

Elsewhere, Syria bounced back from last month’s shock loss to Singapore with a big 4-0 win in the return leg to climb off the foot of Group A.

Iran, three-time winners of Asian football’s biggest prize, beat Thailand 3-0 at Bangkok’s Rajamangala Stadium to strengthen their grip on Group B.

And in Group E, Uzbekistan beat Vietnam 3-0 in Hanoi as they solidified second spot behind leaders UAE.

Australia, Japan, South and North Korea have already qualified for the 2015 finals.