Oman makes ground

Third-placed Oman cut Kuwait and Australia's shared lead at the top of Group B to just one point after it beat Indonesia 2-1 in their Asian Cup qualifier in Jakarta on Thursday morning.

Third-placed Oman cut Kuwait and Australia's shared lead at the top of Group B to just one point after it beat Indonesia 2-1 in their Asian Cup qualifier in Jakarta on Thursday morning.

It sets up a tantalising final-round group match between Oman and Kuwait in Muscat at the start of March, while Australia faces already-eliminated Indonesia in Brisbane.

At the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, Oman moved itself firmly into contention as Ismail Sulaiman's second-half strike secured all three points against Indonesia.

Fouzi Basheer's 31st-minute header from Ahmed Hadid's cross had put the visitors on their way before Boas Salossa latched onto a long ball forward before beating Oman goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi in first-half injury time.

But seven minutes after the break Sulaiman struck to leave Oman knowing a win against Kuwait at Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in two months' time would seal a place at the Asian Cup finals.

Meanwhile, three-time champion Japan qualified for next year's regional championship after Hirayama Sota's hat-trick earned a 3-2 comeback victory over Yemen.

Bahrain also qualified from Group A after maintaining its perfect record, Ismaeel Abdulatif's first-half hat-trick helping to secure a 4-0 demolition of Hong Kong in Manama.

At the Ali Mohsen Al-Muraisi Stadium in Sana'a, Basem Al Aqel opened the scoring for Yemen - which needed a win to keep its qualification hopes alive - before Sami Karama's 25-yard strike doubled the advantage seven minutes before the break.

But after Sota headed home to pull a goal back for a youthful Japan side three minutes later, the FC Tokyo striker equalised 10 minutes after half-time with a superb turn and finish from inside the area.

And with 11 minutes remaining he converted from close range from Inui Takashi's cross to stun Yemen.

At the Bahrain National Stadium, Abdulatif fired a nine-minute treble to sink Hong Kong.

The lanky striker opened the scoring after 34 minutes when he converted Salman Isa's cross before repeating the trick when he got on the end of Husain Salman's centre six minutes later.

He completed his hat-trick in the 43rd minute after firing Ahmed Hassan's low delivery first-time past keeper Tse Tak Him before Abdullah Al Dakeel added a fourth with 11 minutes to go.

In Group E action, Iran qualified for the 2011 Asian Cup after beating Singapore 3-1 at Singapore's National Stadium.

Hadi Aghili's 11th-minute penalty and Mehrzad Madanchi's strike a minute later put Iran in control.

Noh Alam Shah pulled a goal back for the hosts before half-time, but Gholamreza Rezaei ensured Iran will qualify for next year's finals in Qatar as group winners three minutes after the hour mark.

The battle for second place remained deadlocked after Thailand was held to a goalless draw by Jordan at Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok to remain on six points alongside Singapore with one match remaining, with Jordan just a point further back.

In the final round of games at the beginning of March, Iran entertains Thailand, while Singapore travels to Jordan.

Japan and Iran will be joined at the 2011 Asian Cup finals by Syria and China who qualified from Group D after sharing a goalless draw at Yellow Dragon Stadium in Hangzhou.

With Lebanon and Vietnam drawing 1-1 in Saidi, second-placed China remained five points ahead of third-placed Vietnam ahead of the final round of matches with Syria still a point clear at the top of the group.

China should have claimed a fourth win in five games after its opening defeat in Syria, but Shao Jiayi saw one effort cleared off the line and another hit the crossbar.

At Saida Municipal Stadium, Lebanon claimed a first point of the campaign to deny Vietnam.

The home side took the lead as Mahmoud El Ali superbly volleyed home after 20 minutes, but Pham Thanh Luong gave Vitenam hope with an equaliser five minutes before the break.

And Pham should have kept Vietnam's hopes of qualifying alive ahead of the visit of China in the final group game next weekend, but after Lebanon goalkeeper Freije failed to clear a cross, he could not find the empty net.

Leader Syria rounds off its campaign when it entertains Lebanon on March 3.

In Group C, United Arab Emirates also secured its place at the 2011 Asian Cup finals with a last-gasp 1-0 win over Malaysia at Al Shabab Stadium in Dubai.

Second-half substitute Ahmed Khalil fired home in second-half stoppage time as UAE qualified from the group alongside unbeaten Uzbekistan.

Malaysia needed a substantial win to keep its slim hopes alive, but rarely threatened UAE goalkeeper Majed Naser as it ended the campaign with a fourth-consecutive defeat.

UAE rounds off its campaign in Uzbekistan on March 3 with a win by two or more goals securing top spot in the three-team Group C.

Ismaeil Matar was twice denied by visiting goalkeeper Mohd Farizal in the first half as UAE made an encouraging start.

Farizal denied Hamdan Al Kamali after the break before Mahmoud Khamis and Fares Juma failed to direct late efforts on goal for the home side.

Malaysia could have snatched a first win of the campaign in the last minute but captain Mohamad Aidil fired his free-kick straight at Naser.

And with time running out Abdulsalam Jumaa picked out Khalil and the former AFC Young Player of the Year sent his strike curling past Farizal from the edge of the area.