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London Olympic 2012
London Olympic 2012

Japan beats Syria in London 2012 Olympic soccer qualifier

(DP-News - AFP)

Japan clinched victory in the dying minutes against Syria Sunday in the Group C Asian zone qualifying match for the London 2012 Olympics, lifting Japan top of the table after three straight wins.

Forward Yuki Otsu’s diving header with just four minutes left put Japan on nine points to lead the group, while Syria lie in second place on six points and Bahrain and Malaysia both stay rooted at the bottom with no points.

Syria had their first scoring chance in the 10th minute when midfielder Mohammed Fares hit a free kick into the area, but forward Nassouh Nakkdahli headed the ball wide.



Japan created a handful of early chances, with Otsu’s shot blocked by a defender and midfielder Hotaru Yamaguchi’s goal attempt off a Syrian clearance narrowly going wide, but they broke the deadlock at the end of the first half. From a short corner, midfielder Takahiro Ogihara sent the ball into the area and defender Mizuki Hamada headed home on the stroke of half-time.

Both teams played aggressively after the break, creating a host of chances, but just as Japan turned up the heat, Syria’s Omar Al Suma dribbled through three defenders into the area and struck home to level 1-1 in the 75th minute.

In the final 15-minute scramble, Otsu’s diving header in the 86th minute kept Japan’s 100 percent record in qualifying, intact, to the delight of the home crowd.

In Kuala Lumpur, Bahrain stunned Malaysia with three goals in the last 10 minutes as they stormed back to win a remarkable match 3-2.

The visitors had gone behind to a long-distance scorcher from Malaysian livewire Muhammad Nazmi and they looked dead-and-buried when Mohamed Al Hayam put the ball in his own net midway through the second half.

But a moment of magic from Saad Al Amer reduced the deficit on 80 minutes when his sublime bicycle-kick dropped over goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi and into the Malaysian net.
Four minutes later Bahrain were back on terms courtesy of a superb free-kick from Isa Al Ahmed, who was then on hand to fire the winner on 86 minutes.

The dramatic turn-around earned Bahrain their first points of qualifying but it put a big dent in the hopes of Malaysia, who have now lost twice since lifting the Southeast Asian Games trophy last week.

Meanwhile, in Sydney, goal-shy Australia’s Olympic qualifying hopes were dealt a blow by their third successive 0-0 draw Sunday.

At Sydney’s Parramatta Stadium, the Australians’ lack of cutting edge in front of goal again proved their undoing against the resilient and hard-nosed Uzbeks, who earned the home team’s ire with their time-wasting tactics.

While Uzbekistan retained the group lead, the Olyroos have now played 4 1/2 hours without finding the net, which has left them struggling to keep pace halfway through qualifying.

The complete absence of goals has put Australia under severe pressure at the halfway stage and it got worse for them later on Sunday as Iraq leap-forged them into second after they claimed their first win of the campaign a 2-0 away victory over winless UAE.

The top teams from three groups gain an automatic ticket to London 2012, while the second-placed sides enter a round-robin with the prize of a play-off against an African nation.
Meanwhile South Korea needed a first-half penalty as they edged Saudi Arabia 1-0 to stay top of Group A.

Cho Young-Cheol put his 33rd-minute spot-kick past Saudi ‘keeper Hussein Shaian after defender Ahmed Walibi’s foul, stretching South Korea’s group lead to four points ahead of second-placed Oman’s game with Qatar.

South Korea is three points clear of Oman who could only manage a 1-1 draw at home to Qatar.
The Qataris are a point further back after drawing all three of their matches’ thus far.

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