Palestine kept their hopes of reaching the knockout stages at the Asian Cup alive with a 1-1 draw against 10-man United Arab Emirates on Thursday while Australia booked their spot in the next round.
Uzbekistan are in a strong position to proceed too after defeating India 3-0. Hosts and holders Qatar are already through.
A moment’s silence was held before Palestine’s match with the UAE, played against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war in the Palestinian territory of Gaza.
Most of the crowd of over 40,000 in Doha roared their support for Palestine, but the UAE opened the scoring midway through the first half through Sultan Adil’s header.
Palestine were awarded a penalty and UAE defender Khalifa Al-Hammadi was sent off in the 37th minute, but Tamer Seyam saw his spot kick saved by Khalid Eisa.
Palestine equalised five minutes into the second half when UAE defender Bader Nasser headed the ball into his own goal.
But they could not go on to claim their first-ever win at the Asian Cup, Eisa denying them with a series of crucial saves.
If they can achieve that first win against Hong Kong in their next game, Palestine will likely progress.
Jackson Irvine scored the only goal in a stodgy 1-0 victory over Syria to put Australia into the last 16 with a game to spare.
The sides mustered only one shot on target each in their game, but Socceroos coach Graham Arnold dismissed the suggestion that his side had been lucky to win.
“The most important thing for us is our mentality, our work rate and keeping a clean sheet,” said Arnold, who took Australia to the last 16 of the Qatar World Cup, before losing 2-1 to eventual champions Argentina.
“Clean sheets win tournaments,” added Arnold, whose team beat India 2-0 in their opening game and are considered one of the contenders for the trophy.
The 2015 champions had more of the ball against a stubborn Syria but struggled to break their opponents down.
Lower-ranked Syria might have taken the lead inside five minutes but Colombian-born striker Pablo Sabbag hit the post.
With Australia struggling to create chances, Arnold made a triple substitution in the 57th minute, including throwing on the attacking midfielders Riley McGree and Samuel Silvera.
Three minutes later they took the lead through Germany-based Irvine.
The midfielder swivelled in the box before poking the ball through the legs of goalkeeper Ahmad Madanieh for his second goal of the competition.
Next up Australia face Uzbekistan, who are on the verge of going through after easing to a 3-0 win over India.
Uzbekistan, held 0-0 by Syria in their first game, had no such trouble breaching India’s leaky defence.
The Uzbeks were 3-0 up at the break following a torrid first half for Igor Stimac’s men.
The Central Asians were ahead within five minutes, through an Abbosbek Fayzullaev header, the 20-year-old CSKA Moscow winger nodding in Otabek Shukurov’s looping header.
Chaotic Indian defending led to the second 14 minutes later, a sliding Sandesh Jhingan chipping the ball against his own bar for Igor Sergeev to score on the rebound.
Ranked 102nd in the world to Uzbekistan’s 68, India had their moments but were mostly limited to speculative crosses in front of more than 38,000 people at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.
Their hopes of a comeback were extinguished during first-half stoppage time, Sherzod Nasrullaev exploiting some statuesque defending to notch a third.
With one round of matches to go, Australia top Group B with a perfect six points, two ahead of Uzbekistan. Syria have one point and India no points and no goals.
“If we take the goals out of the game — which were caused by silly mistakes — I could be happy with the performance,” said Stimac.