Uzbekistan became the first and only team to storm into
Asia's final ten-team round with two games to spare after they
picked up their fourth straight win, 1-0 over Singapore at Tashkent
on Saturday. At the same time, Lebanon and Turkmenistan had their
qualifying hopes shattered following their respective losses to
Saudi Arabia and Korea DPR.
A pair of leading teams failed to snatch the full points to progress as expected, with Bahrain only managing a 1-1 home draw against Thailand, while Australia suffered their first defeat, losing out to Iraq 1-0.
In group 3, the two teams from the Korean peninsula remained level at the top on eight points following their respective 1-0 wins, with Korea Republic leading their northern neighbours on goal differences. Elsewhere, a 1-0 victory over hosts United Arab Emirates moved Iran top ahead of Syria, who will play their game against Kuwait on Sunday.
Results of matchday 4:
Group 1: China 0-1 Qatar; Iraq 1-0 Australia
Group 2: Oman 1-1 Japan; Bahrain 1-1Thailand
Group 3: Jordan 0-1 Korea Republic; Korea DPR 1-0 Turkmenistan
Group 4: Uzbekistan 1-0 Singapore; Lebanon 1-2 Saudi Arabia
Group 5: United Arab Emirates 0-1 Iran; Kuwait-Syria (8 June)
Game of the day
Uzbekistan 1-0 Singapore
Goal: Alexander Geynrikh 80'
Having crushed Singapore 7-3 in their previous match, Uzbekistan would have been supremely confident to tame the Lions with another emphatic victory when they played hosts in Tashkent. However, Singapore gave a much better account of themselves throughout the match until second half substitute Alexander Geynrikh scored the only goal with ten minutes to go.
Sixteen minutes after he was sent on, Geynrikh eased the home crowd's worries by netting the winner. An onrushing Server Djeparov was tackled by Singapore forward Shi Jiayi but the loose ball fell into the path of Geynrikh, whose blistering shot from the edge of the area gave goalkeeper Lewis Lionel no chance.
Surprise of the day
China 0-1 Qatar
Goal: Sebastian Soria 14' (penalty)
It seemed that history repeated itself as Qatar came away with a 1-0 win over China in Saturday's crunch tie. During qualifying for Italy 1990, Qatar came from one goal down to score twice within the closing three minutes to defeat China 2-1, a result which cost China their first-ever qualification for the FIFA World Cup™ finals. Eight years later, Qatar pulled off a 3-2 away win against China in a crucial qualifier for France 1998.
In a match that neither side could afford to lose in Tianjin, it was again the visiting Qatar side that prevailed over hosts China by a solitary goal, Sebastian Soria converting a spot kick after 14 minutes. China twice came close to opening the scoring within the first 11 minutes, with Gao Lin's first-minute volley grazing the left post before Zhu Ting's back-heel shot hit the woodwork. However, the penalty kick proved the deciding strike of the game, which saw Qatar defended the lead into victory. The win pulls Qatar level on seven points with leaders Australia, while China, with three opening draws and the defeat, are left on the brink of elimination at the bottom.
Player of the day
Saudi Arabia's Redha Tukar may have emerged the only player who completed a brace, but Emad Mohammed stole the show through his sparkling display. The diminutive though dynamic striker, renowned for scoring crucial goals, once again proved his status as Iraq's potent weapon. In their quarter-final clash against Australia at Athens 2004, Mohammed scored a spectacular goal from a bicycle kick to earn Iraq a famous win. And after rattling the woodwork with a fierce shot against Australia in the last match at Brisbane, the Sepahan forward scored the only goal on 28 minutes to keep Iraq's hopes still alive.
Goal of the day
Ferydoon Zandi 8'
It was a critical moment for Iran as they entered the match against hosts UAE as the group's third placed team following three opening draws. The absence of suspended Andranik Teymourian as well as the injured Mehdi Mahdavikia and Ali Karimi made life extremely hard for Ali Daei's men, who were under pressure to gain their first win. Despite all these difficulties, it was German-based Zandi who rose to the occasion. After Madoud Shojaei's through ball found him one on one with the UAE goalkeeper Majed Naser, the left-footer kept his cool to lob the ball over Naser and into the back of the net.
The numbers game
6: The number of matches which ended in a 1-0 score. Pragmatic strategy dominated tonight's actions as six of the seven wins were decided by a solitary goal, leaving Saudi Arabia the only team who won by scoring more than one goal.
What they said
"China were only lucky to secure a goalless draw against us in the last match in Doha so before this match I had thought that we could win if we didn't give them too many chances. Throughout the match our players demonstrated good disciplined play and determination for the win. We had made a proper game strategy which eventually carried us through." Jorge Fossati, Qatar coach