Asian Cup: Irvine sends Australia to knockout stage

Jackson Irvine delivered again as Australia booked their place in the knockout stage of the Asian Cup on Thursday by beating Syria 1-0.

The midfielder scored for the second straight game to maintain the Socceroos’ 100% start in Group B.

Australia won the title when hosting the tournament in 2015 and top the group on six points.

Irvine struck the winner when he turned inside the area and flicked a shot past Syria goalkeeper Ahmad Madanieh in the 59th minute at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium. He had scored the opening goal in his team’s 2-0 win against India on Matchday One.

The closest Syria came to scoring was when Pablo Sabbag fired powerfully against the post early on.

In the second match of the day, Uzbekistan put themselves in position to join Australia in the next round after a 3-0 win against bottom team India.

Abbosbek Fayzullaev, Igor Sergeev and Sherzod Nasrullaev all scored in the first half to effectively seal the win before the break.

There is still plenty to play for in the group. Second-placed Uzbekistan are on four points going into their final game against Australia on Tuesday and would go top with a win. A draw would be enough to guarantee they advance as runners-up.

Syria could also move onto four points if they beat India. That might be enough to see it progress to the next stage as one of the best third-placed teams, even if they do not overtake Uzbekistan.

It has been a poor start for India, but there is still a chance they could advance as one of the best third-place teams if they are able to beat Syria.

In the final contest on Thursday, there was a 1-1 draw between Palestine and the United Arab Emirates, who played for more than half of the match with 10 men.

The draw for the UAE opens the door for Iran to move clear at the top of Group C if they can defeat Hong Kong on Friday.

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