Bahrain sink Qatar to maintain playoff place

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MANAMA - Bahrain beat Qatar 1-0 on Wednesday to boost their hopes of earning a playoff berth in World Cup qualifying. Fouzi Aaish's free kick seven minutes after the halftime sealed victory for Bahrain who held on to third in Group One, three points ahead of Qatar and Uzbekistan. The top two advance automatically while the third team can qualify via playoffs. Bahrain's Czech coach Milan Macala was delighted to win but said qualification for South Africa was still a long way off. "The win today didn't seal the third place for us and we must put a lot of effort in the next matches to win third place," he told reporters. "We had a better performance in the second half and we used the flanks well as we created a lot of chances." Bahrain changed their formation after the first half stalemate and went close when Jaycee Okwunwanne blasted his shot into the side netting from a tight angle. The pressure paid off and the hosts went ahead on 52 minutes when Aaish struck a low free kick past the unsighted keeper. Qatar fought hard and came close to equalising on 68 minutes when Khalfan al-Khalfan sneaked behind the Bahrain defence and forced a save from Sayed Jaffer at the near post. Bahrain had a chance to put the game beyond Qatar six minutes later when the dangerous Aala Hubail went clean through on goal but keeper Mohamed Ahmed saved well. The win bolstered Bahrain's bid to reach the playoffs for the second time in a row after going out to eventual qualifiers Trinidad and Tobago in an inter-confederation decider for a place at the 2006 World Cup. Victory also denied Australia the chance to become the first team to qualify for the finals after they beat Uzbekistan 2-0 in Sydney. The Socceroos lead with 13 points, followed by Japan on 11, Bahrain on seven and Qatar and Uzbekistan tied at the bottom on four.