SINGAPORE (AFP) - China, Iran, Japan, Bahrain and the UAE qualified for the 2011 Asian Cup finals on Wednesday, but Australia must wait after conceding a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 in Kuwait.
Japan pulled off an escape in the Ali Mohsen Al Muraisi Stadium in Sana'a after Sota Hirayama fired a hat-trick to see off Yemen 3-2 after the hosts had established a two-goal lead through Basem Al Aqel and Sami Karama.
Hirayama pulled one back just before the break - before Khaled Baleid hit the bar for Yemen - and the Blue Samurai striker's close range finish 11 minutes from the end secured the win that ensured they stay atop a Group A from which Bahrain also qualify after thumping Hong Kong 4-0.
The game in Sana'a was under threat of being called off following the attempted bombing on Christmas Day of a US-bound airliner.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group's Yemen-based arm, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Australia's hopes are still in the balance after Pim Verbeek's Socceroos failed to see off Kuwait despite Luke Wilkshire and Central Coast Mariners defender Dean Hefferman putting the visitors 2-0 up inside five minutes.
Kuwait roared back and scored twice in a frenetic end to the opening period through Hamad Al Enezi and Yousef Nasser.
Al Enezi drew a fine save from Aussie keeper Eugene Galekovic nine minutes from time to keep the Socceroos level with the Kuwaitis in Group B on eight points but second on goal difference.
Oman's 2-1 win over Indonesia in Jakarta means they are still in the mix on seven points - but the Indonesians are out.
Australia still have to entertain the Indonesians while Kuwait travel to Oman.
Perennial underachievers China secured their berth with a hard-fought goalless draw in Zhejiang against qualified Syria in Group D.
But Gao Hongbo's team had to wait an agonising 40 minutes to hear the result from Beirut, where minnows Lebanon held Vietnam to a 1-1 draw which sent the Chinese through.
It was sweet revenge for China, who lost 3-2 to Syria at the start of the qualifying campaign almost a year ago under caretaker coach Yin Tiesheng, but since then had recorded three straight wins before Wednesday's draw.
Iran, a traditional Asian powerhouse still recovering from its failure to make next year's World Cup in South Africa, ensured they will kick-off in Doha in January 2011 with a convincing 3-1 victory in Singapore.
While the home team started brightly, defensive blunders gifted Iran two goals in the space of 60 seconds.
Hadi Aghli opened the Iranian account with a penalty on 11 minutes and Mehrzad Madanchi made it 2-0 a minute later after picking up a stray Mustafic Fahrudin pass on the edge of the box and firing home.
Nor Alam Shah pulled one back for the home side just after half-an-hour but a delicate chip from Radham Rezaei mid-way through the second period sealed victory for Iran.
Singapore can still reach their first Asian Cup finals since hosting the competition back in 1984 after Bryan Robson's Thailand failed to dispatch Jordan.
Their 0-0 draw in Bangkok draw means Singapore and Thailand both have six points with Jordan on five and a game to play.
Jordan would appear to have the advantage with a home tie against Singapore on March 3 while Thailand must travel to Iran.
Uzbekistan and Syria had already booked their places at the showpiece in Qatar, along with the host nation and Iraq, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, the top three in the 2007 tournament.
India are also through as the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup winners
A last-gasp goal from substitute Ahmed Khalil sent United Arab Emirates through after he scored in stoppage-time to seal a 1-0 Group C win over Malaysia at Al Shabab Stadium.
In Manama, Ismail Abdullateef scored a hat-trick and Abdulla Al Dhakeel netted the other to leave Bahrain coach Milan Macala a happy man as his men progressed with Japan.
"The main thing was to qualify and now that we have achieved it, we are not bothered too much about the final scoreline," said the Czech.
Hong Kong coach Fai Chun Liu said the result was not totally unexpected but added that it was a good learning experience.
"We played well in the opening stages. But once we conceded the first goal we tried too hard to get back into the match," said Liu.
|Basem Al Aqel||13'|
|Aref Al Dali|
|Akram Al Worafi|
|Ala'a Al Sasi|
|Khaled Hasan Baleid|
|Munassar Ba Haj|
|Ali Al Nono|
|Coach: S. Juričić|
for Basem Al Aqel 71'
for Sami Karama 77'
for Akram Al Worafi 83'
|Hughton admits interest in Palace and Brighton roles|
|Injuries not behind retirement plans, says Rolfes|
|Podolski: Arsenal exit not a formality|
|Wellington Phoenix 1 Western Sydney Wanderers 0: Krishna wins it|
|Taylor wary of ´beast´ Lukaku|
|Al Habsi to lead Oman at Asian Cup|
|Lacazette will stay at Lyon - Aulas|
|Southampton like Atletico, says Alderweireld|
|World Cup held PSG back - Blanc|
|Everton facing ´pivotal´ moment - Martinez|
|Zamora urges QPR to tie down Austin|
|Badstuber, Alaba set for New Year return|
|Burgos: Atletico will get the best out of Torres|
|Chelsea to offer Terry new deal - Mourinho|
|Rodgers excited by Sterling development|
|Strinic close to finalising Napoli switch|
|Torres to join Milan on permanent deal|
|Scottish Premiership Review: Celtic held to shock draw, rivals fail to capitalise|
|Wenger sings Song´s praises|
|Pochettino calls for bravery|
|West Ham could lose Allardyce - Sullivan|
|League One Preview: Saunders takes charge for Colchester clash|
|Aguirre denies any involvement in La Liga match-fixing scandal|
|Mourinho impressed by Koeman´s Southampton|
|QPR v Crystal Palace: Millen recast in familiar role|
|West Ham v Arsenal: Allardyce eyes further home comfort|
|Elusive Coppa Italia on Juventus´ wish list - Marotta|
|Jones eyes swift response|
|Millen focused on QPR clash|
|League Two Preview: Shrewsbury, Wycombe and Burton vie for year-end top spot|
|Mancini not expecting big-money signings at Inter|
|Tottenham v Manchester United: Carrick expects tough return|
|Pearson eager to see Leicester resolve|
|Newcastle United v Everton: Martinez demands clinical touch|
|Liverpool v Swansea City: Rodgers backs returning Mignolet|
|Bayern can still improve - Sammer|
|Warnock sacked by Palace|
|Aston Villa v Sunderland: No club too big to go down, says Lambert|
|Hull City v Leicester City: Pearson vows to keep going|
|Stoke City v West Brom: Hughes targets elusive back-to-back wins|
|Rodgers dismisses Balotelli exit rumours|
|Modric will not rush Madrid return|
|Dyche pleased with Vokes return|
|Southampton v Chelsea: Koeman vows to go on the offensive|
|A-League Review: Six-goal Gosford thriller, Victory leave it late|
|Manchester City v Burnley: Pellegrini warns against complacency|
|Dortmund can fight on two fronts - Watzke|
|Sterling hails improved Liverpool belief|
|Rosicky eager to build on QPR winner|
|Wenger: ´We made it hard for ourselves´|
|Kane: Spurs eye top four|
|Di Maria in doubt for Spurs clash|
|Ba left out of Senegal AFCON squad|
|Redknapp frustrated by penalty call|
|Wenger sees Giroud wrongs|
|Premier League schedule a ´disgrace´, says Poyet|
|Championship Review: Bournemouth stay top, Heskey scores on Bolton debut|
|Hughes lauds Bojan performance|
|Koeman: Saints marching on|
|Pardew rues referee error|
|Arsenal 2 QPR 1: Sublime Alexis secures the spoils|
|Martinez questions Walters decision|
|Poyet laments Sunderland mistakes|
|League One Review: Swindon cruise to win over Walsall|
|Irvine aware of need for improvement|
|United still doing ´very bad things´ - Van Gaal|
|Lambert proud of players despite Swansea defeat|
|Warnock bemoans Palace defence|
|Bruce hails Hull´s spirit|
|Pochettino relieved to come away with victory|
|Dyche: We had our pocket pinched|
|Monk hails Fabianski performance|
|Pearson demands greater concentration from Leicester|
|Kompany set for City return|
|Rodgers hails character after battling win|
|League Two Review: Ainsworth frustrated by Luton, Shrewsbury go top|
|Everton 0 Stoke City 1: Lacklustre Everton slip to defeat|
|Sunderland 1 Hull City 3: Triumphant return for Bruce|
|Burnley 0 Liverpool 1: Sterling wins it at Turf Moor|
|Leicester City 1 Tottenham 2: Eriksen piles misery on Pearson´s men|
|Manchester United 3 Newcastle United 1: Rooney extends hosts´ streak|
|West Brom 1 Manchester City 3: Three and easy for in-form champions|
|Swansea City 1 Aston Villa 0: Hosts break Boxing Day duck|
|Crystal Palace 1 Southampton 3: Mane marks return with star performance|
|Allardyce upbeat despite defeat|
|Van Dijk happy at Celtic - Deila|
|Table-topping Chelsea delight Mourinho|
|Chelsea 2 West Ham 0: Mourinho´s men ease to victory|
|Suarez enjoying Messi, Neymar link-up|
|A-League Review: Garcia rescues point for Perth, Adelaide up to second|
|Poyet calls for mid-season break|
|Van Gaal rules out Januzaj move|
|Rodgers: Balotelli may have to get used to bench|
|Lallana: I was trying too hard|
|Walker juggles music, football careers in Sweden|
|Song to face ´brother from another mother´ Fabregas|
|Adriano announces Le Havre deal|
|Pardew braced for Old Trafford test|
|Lescott unfazed by City reunion|
|Tskhadadze appointed Georgia coach|
|United to finish top three - Ferdinand|
|Allardyce: Stamford Bridge stalemate saved my job|