DOHA // Australia reached the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup after a hard-fought 1-0 win over Bahrain last night to secure first place in Group C on goal difference ahead of second-placed South Korea.
Mile Jedinak scored his first international goal in Australia's draw against South Korea in their second group match on Friday and got his second in as many games against Bahrain when he fired a fine dipping shot from over 20 yards into the back of the net in the 37th minute.
Australia needed just a point to progress but they attacked from the outset as Brett Emerton pulled a shot wide after just two minutes before Tim Cahill fired wide from outside the area.
Bahrain, needing a win to stay in the tournament, kept Australia on the back foot for most of the second half in driving rain at the Al Sadd Stadium in Qatar's capital, but could not find a way past an impressive Mark Schwarzer in the Socceroos goal.
Unlike South Korea, who walloped hapless India 4-1 in the group's other match, Australia were up against a side still with a chance of reaching the quarter-finals, and it showed in a closely fought first half.
Bahrain threatened with some neat interchanges, and after picking up a clever pass from Abdulla Fatadi, Ismaeel Abdulatif almost added to the four goals he scored against India but smacked the outside of a post with an angled shot in the 31st minute.
A minute later, Brett Holman squared for Harry Kewell, who was denied by Mahmood Mansoor, the goalkeeper.
Cahill might have made it 2-0 early in the second half, but he headed wide after Kewell had beaten the offside trap, skipped past the keeper and crossed for the Everton midfielder.
Bahrain continued to make it uncomfortable for Australia with Abdulatif their main attacking threat.
Jaycee John had the Australian defence in a panic in the 57th minute but Lucas Neill blocked the forward's sight of goal and in the end he could only lash a shot into the side-netting.
Schwarzer made diving saves from Abdulatif and Fatadi to keep his side in front.
Schwarzer again came to his side's rescue in the 67th minute, this time keeping the ball out with his feet after a cross found Abdulatif in space at the far post.
As full time approached, Bahrain's attacks finally petered out into a midfield battle, with Australia happy to sit back and defend their lead.
But the match ended on a worrying note for the Socceroos when Cahill limped off in added time after being injured in a challenge.