Japan, Bahrain win Olympic qualifiers

Japan beat hosts the UAE 2-0 to top group B in the final round of Asian Olympic Qualifiers in Abu Dhabi on Friday.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:05 IST
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Abu Dhabi:

Japan beat hosts the UAE 2-0 to top group B in the final round of Asian Olympic Qualifiers at the Al Jazira Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Friday. In another match in the same group, Bahrain held off a late challenge from Lebanon to win 5-3. The twelve teams competing are divided into three groups in the final qualifying rounds with the top team in each group advancing to Athens. Samurais march ahead It was a crunch match for Japan as they took on hosts United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the Group B encounter of the final round of the Asian Olympic qualifiers. Fancied Japan had drawn their first match against Bahrain and won the second game convincingly against Lebanon. The UAE had won both their previous matches to lead Group B. The UAE looked sharp in the field and created better opportunities in the first half. Faisal Khalil went close from inside the box in the 33rd minute, but the striker shot way over. Nawaf Mubarak has been in superb form for the hosts scoring three goals in the previous two matches. In the 38th minute, Nawaf nearly scored with a brilliant shot from a set piece. His thundering shot beat the goal keeper but hit the crossbar before going out of play. Two minutes later, Nawaf found space in the box but his header missed the target by inches. Though Japan clearly lacked aggression in the first half, the visitors more than made up for it with two quick goals towards the end of the match. In the 85th minute, Tanaka Tatsuya cut through the defence from the left and shot from close range. The ball rebounded off the diving goal keeper, Ismail Rabee, and Takamatsu Daiki tapped in for the first goal. However, Tanaka was not to be denied a goal for his hard work two minutes later. His powerful shot from outside the box went in after 'keeper Ismail fumbled the ball - despite making a valiant dive to keep it out. So, Japan won 2-0 and lived up to their reputation of being the only team in Group B to have played in the Olympics. Bahrain beat Lebanon In another Group B match, Bahrain took on Lebanon. Both teams were yet to record a win, though Bahrain started favourites. Bahrain went ahead in the 5th minute. Skipper Hussan Salman crossed from the left and Alaa Ahmed fired a brilliant volley to find the back of the net. In the 14th minute, Bahrain made it 2-0. Alaa Ahmed took advantage of a weak clearance and took his time before scoring his second goal of the game. After Bahrain had scored a third goal, Lebanon reduced the margin in the 35th minute - Rony Azar converting a penalty to make it 3-1, after he was fouled inside the box. Bahrain increased their lead almost immediately - Saleh Ahmed timing a perfect header from a corner to make it 4-1 in the 36th minute. Before the break, Lebanon reduced the margin further with a goal from Ali Nasser. Lebanon pulled another goal back in the 70th minute after Ali Nasser benefitted from a weak clearance and found the net with an easy shot. It was Nasser's second goal for Lebanon, as they trailed 4-3. But Bahrain put the match beyond doubt in the 77th minute. Adel Abdulla had only to tap in for a simple goal after a cross from the right opened up the weak Lebanese defence. So 5-3 to Bahrain it finished. With all three teams playing three games each, Japan top group B with 7 points, UAE are second with 6 points. Bahrain lie in the third spot with 4 points, while Lebanon are bottom with no points. (AP)