Asian Cup round-up: Oman edges past Kuwait, South Korea stuns Australia

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Abdul Aziz Al-Maqbali celebrates as Oman gets its first win in the Asian Cup since 2004.

Abdul Al Maqbali struck with a second-half header as Oman beat Kuwait 1-0 in a dead rubber at the Asian Cup on Saturday, both teams already having been eliminated.

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– Asian Cup round-up: Japan down Iraq, Jordan defeat Palestine

A scrappy encounter between the Gulf rivals appeared to be meandering towards the tournament's first draw before Al Maqbali pounced with a superb header to break the stalemate in Group A game with only pride at stake.

It was Oman's first victory at the Asian Cup since 2004.

Al Maqbali's goal briefly sparked the game to life and the striker could have snatched a hat-trick inside three minutes, first blazing wide on the volley and then seeing a header cleared off the line.

Faisal Alenezi of Kuwait contests the ball with Raed Saleh of Oman.

Their bags already packed having been beaten by Group A powerhouses Australia and South Korea, both teams were limited to speculative long-range shots in a first half offering very little for a crowd of 7,000 in Newcastle to get excited about.

Abdullah Al Buraiki forced a superb save from Oman goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi before squandering a gilt-edged chance to equalise by nodding over the bar when it appeared easier to score.

Fahed Al Ebrahim smashed wide for 1980 champions Kuwait, who huffed and puffed but with no end product as they failed to break an 11-match winless streak against Oman and finished without a point.

Clinical South Korea stun wasteful Australia

Kim Yong-Gwon of Korea and Kwak Tae-Hwi embrace after winning Australia.

A razor-sharp finish from rookie striker Lee Jeong-Hyeop in the first half gave South Korea a 1-0 win over Australia on Saturday, ensuring they topped their Asian Cup group.

Lee, playing in only his second match for the Taeguk Warriors, struck after 32 minutes to stun the Australians, who had dominated up until then and who created the lion's share of the chances in a blockbuster clash in Brisbane.

The Socceroos should have at least salvaged a draw, but wastefulness in front of goal scuppered their hopes of topping Group A and puts them on a collision course with holders Japan if the teams make the semi-finals.

The hosts now face the tournament's surprise package China in a quarter-final, also in Brisbane, on Thursday, while South Korea will take on either Uzbekistan or Saudi Arabia in Melbourne.

James Troisi (C) of Australia fights for the ball with Han Kyo Won (L), Ki Sung Yueng and Kim Changsoo (R) of South Korea.

Australia coach Ange Postecoglou made four changes from the 4-0 win over Oman, opting to leave Tim Cahill and Robbie Kruse on the bench, while his South Korea counterpart Uli Stielike made six to the side that beat Kuwait.

In a match played in stifling heat, humidity and a plague of moths, the Socceroos missed the firepower of Cahill, Austalia's record goal scorer.

Juric blew a great chance before Burns went close in the 70th minute after a mazy run, only for his shot to be tipped onto the bar by Kim Jin-Hyeon.

Postecoglou finally threw on Cahill and Kruse with 20 minutes to go, but it was too little too late and the Koreans held on, the final whistle triggering a chorus of boos from a crowd of 48,000.

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Asian Cup round-up: Japan down Iraq, Aldaradreh slams four past Palestine

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Star man: Keisuke Honda of Japan scores the winning goal during the Asian Cup match against Iraq at Suncorp Stadium.

Keisuke Honda's first-half penalty proved the difference as defending champions Japan downed Iraq 1-0 in their Asian Cup Group D match on Friday.

Honda coolly converted from the penalty spot in the 23rd minute to give the Blue Samurai a well-deserved win in front of almost 23,000 fans at Brisbane Stadium.

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The 1-0 scoreline flattered 2007 winners Iraq, who were under immense pressure throughout and could have conceded a hatful if the Japanese had converted their many chances.

Honda was guilty of a glaring miss when he hit the post in the second half with the goal begging – the third time he hit the woodwork.

Keisuke Honda of Japan and Dhurgham Ismael of Iraq compete for the ball during their match in Brisbane.

However, he managed the decisive kick of the game with his well-taken penalty, when he sent Jalal Hassan the wrong way and rolled the ball into the opposite corner.

Japan will be favourites to progress to the quarter-finals alongside Iraq in their final Group D games against Jordan and Palestine respectively.

Hamza Aldaradreh scored the first hat-trick of the Asian Cup on Friday as Jordan hammered Palestine 5-1 to keep themselves alive in the competition.

Aldaradreh finished with four goals, helping Jordan end a miserable run of 11 games without a win, but their hopes of advancing still hang in the balance with defending champions Japan to come in their final Group D game on Tuesday.

Hamza Aldaradreh of Jordan celebrates his third goal during the Group D Asian Cup football match against Palestine.

Yousef Ahmad scored with a superb curling effort after 33 minutes, before Aldaradreh doubled Jordan's advantage moments later.

The striker grabbed his second in first-half stoppage time to leave Palestine with a mountain to climb and completed his treble with a clinical strike in the 75th minute. Adrenalin pumping, he piled on the misery for Palestine with another goal from point-blank range.

But Palestine carved out a little piece of history for themselves from a pulsating match when Jaka Hbaisha smashed home a consolation goal five minutes from time.

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UAE winning hearts & minds in Asian Cup

marklomas 15/01/2015
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Omar Abdulrahman continues to be one of the Asian Cup's stand-out players.

CANBERRA, Australia –  The Australian media are starting to fall in love with Omar Abdulrahman, Mahdi Ali and the whole United Arab Emirates team and it is easy to see why as the team strolled into the quarter-finals of the 2015 Asian Cup.

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The 2-1 win over Bahrain on Thursday in Canberra was not quite as vibrant or spectacular as the 4-1 thrashing of Qatar four days previously but it featured the sort  of lively attacking play that is helping to make the team the favourite of many neutrals in this tournament.

The front three of Omar, Ahmed Khalil and Ali Mabkhout are a delight to watch. Mabkhout is red hot and after just 14 seconds on a beautiful summer evening in Canberra, put the 1996 finalists ahead.

A Jaycee John header sent the teams in level at half-time but after some pressure from UAE, an own goal from Bahrain captain Mohamed Hasan gave the Emiratis a second successive victory and, after Iran’s win over Qatar in Sydney, a place in the last eight.

“It was tough for us,” said coach Ali. “The most important thing is the win and three points. This will relax us a little ahead of the Iran game.

It is not just people in Australia and Asia who are impressed, the boss knows that fans back home are delighted with how the team is performing. “I have received many calls from top leaders, fans and friends -they are very happy This team brings joy… Many kids are watching the games at school. That’s the most important thing that you can imagine.”

If the 4-1 win over Qatar on Sunday was the perfect start to the tournament for Mahdi Ali’s men, they could not have asked for a better start to this game.

Omar won possession just inside the Bahrain half and floated a perfect pass over the defence for Mabkhout. After seven goals in his previous seven international games, the Al Jazira man was not about to miss; his first touch took him past the goalkeeper, his second rolled the ball into the empty net.

Confidence was coursing through Emirati veins and Mahdi Ali’s men were pushing for the second that would have surely ended Bahrain’s resistance. Yet it was surprisingly the men from Manama who scored.

Jaycee John, the Nigerian-born striker, who had looked to be his team’s greatest threat, headed past Majed Naser from a corner. A few minutes later, the goalkeeper managed to keep out another header from the striker.

The second half started slowly. On the hour, Omar Abdulrahman went close from a free-kick from just inside the area, given after an illegal Bahrain backpass, but the game grew as flat as the atmosphere, or perhaps vice-versa.

UAE's Ali Mabkhout is staking a claim to be the Asian Cup's Golden Boot winner.

It came back to life with 15 minutes remaining, Mohamed Hasan rose highest in a crowded penalty area to head an Amer Abdulrhman free-kick into his own net and that was that for this game and Bahrain – but certainly not for UAE who are just getting started.

Omar, the official man of the match, fielded the now inevitable question as to whether it is time to play in the big leagues. “I am very happy to play in Europe but my goal at the moment is for us to do our best in this competition.”

It is now time for Iran in the final group game. Given UAE’s advantage in goal difference, a draw will ensure top spot and likely mean that Japan are avoided in the quarter-finals, though the official position is that it doesn’t matter. “We never think about avoiding any team,” said the coach. “We play to win regardless of what will happen.”

Bahrain’s fate is sealed and after the final group game with Qatar, the Reds return to Manama to think about the start of qualification for the 2018 World Cup.

“The players fought well,” said boss Marjan Eid. “We tried to play a different style. We attacked in the second half and had lots of opportunities but just couldn’t score.” The former assistant coach was left to lament his team’s fortunes. “We were unlucky. The own goal was a difficult cross for the defence and goalkeeper to handle.”

Nobody in the Bahrain camp really fancies the Qatar game on Monday. “It will be really difficult to motivate the players for the final game but we will have to push the players and I hope that they get what they deserve and we can get the three points.”

UAE have very different things to think about. A point against Iran and the path to the semi-finals of the 2015 Asian Cup and deeper into the hearts of the Australian public is there to be taken.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Omar Abdulrahman. Sometimes you have to go with the obvious and the playmaker has such awareness of his team-mates and the passing ability to go make it happen.

UAE VERDICT: A tougher match than Qatar but this is what the team needed. Again, very lively in attack and regrouped to nullify Bahrain’s tactics.

BAHRAIN VERDICT: Fought well with Jaycee John a real threat but after looking dangerous in the first half, the supply dried up in the second.

YOU HAD TO BE THERE: Coach Mahdi Ali taking a question that was meant for Omar Abdulrahman as to whether he would consider coming to Australia’s A-League.

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