Bahrain defeated Qatar 1-0 today, forcing Australia to wait a little longer to secure their ticket to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
The Socceroos had earlier beaten Uzbekistan 2-0 in Sydney to go back to the top of Asian Zone, Group A, and would have become the first nation to qualify for the finals had this match between the two Gulf neighbours ended in a draw. Bahrain's victory was assured by striker Fouzi Aaish, who scored the all-important goal in the 52nd minute from a free-kick.
The top two teams will qualify for South Africa 2010, with the third-placed side facing a play-off against their Group B counterparts for the right to compete against New Zealand for a berth at the FIFA World Cup.
"We still have two matches and we must have good results in these games in order to win the third place and qualify to the play-offs," said Bahrain coach Milan Macala, whose side face Australia next.
Aaish's goal came from a low, curling shot struck from just outside the Qatar penalty area, which beat the outstretched hands of goalkeeper Ahmed Mohammed on the way into the far corner of the net.
Bahrain came close to doubling the lead later in the second half. Jaycee John first made a good solo move from the left, but his shot from close range struck the side netting. A few minutes later Aa'la Hubail's attempt was well saved by a diving Qatar goalkeeper Mohammed.
Both teams had their share of shots on goal in the first-half, but neither managed to hit the target. Khalfan Al Khalfan provided the first scare for the hosts early on when he burst free from the left, but his shot struck the post.
Qatar continued to pile on the pressure and midway through the first half, the Uruguay-born striker Sebastian Soria came close to scoring from a free-kick taken from just outside the penalty area. His shot breached the Bahrain wall, but goalkeeper Sayed Jaffer averted danger with a reflex save.
Bahrain made sporadic moves and like Qatar hit the post once. But their best chance came towards the end of first half, when the tall Sayed Mohammed Adnan did well to connect a Mohammed Salmeen free-kick from the left before his header brushed past the upright.