Big wins for China and Bahrain
© AFP

China cruised to a morale-boosting 6-1 Asian Cup qualifying win over Vietnam, while Bahrain kicked off their quest with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Hong Kong.

Chinese striker Gao Lin scored a hat-trick in Hangzhou as Yin Tiesheng's men bagged three crucial points after losing to Syria 3-2 in the opening match of their drive to make the finals in Qatar. Gao put the hosts ahead two minutes into the game, but Vietnam levelled 10 minutes later with Nguyen Vu Phong's low drive from inside the box.

China took the lead again on 21 minutes when Gao burst through two defenders before sidefooting home a low drive. Du Wei and Jiang Ning added two more before the break. Midfielder Hao Junmin contributed the fifth soon after the restart following fine work from Qu Bo, before Gao rounded off the night with his third, firing home a fierce shot from inside the area.

In Hong Kong, Milan Macala's Bahrain buried the memory of their disappointing showing at the Gulf Cup, with first-half goals from Ismaeel Abdullatef and Abdulla Baba before Salman Isa added a third late in the game. Substitute Cheng Siu Wai claimed an injury-time consolation for a Hong Kong side that proved ill-equipped to handle the Bahrainis.

Five teams are already through to the finals. Qatar qualify automatically as hosts, while Iraq, Saudi Arabia and South Korea are assured of their places after finishing as the top three teams in the 2007 tournament.

India make the finals for the first time since 1984 after winning the AFC Challenge Cup last year, an event featuring second-tier Asian nations. The winner of the 2010 tournament will also go through to the finals.