North Korea 0 // UAE 1 (Mohammed Ahmed 56)
Man of the match: Mohammed Ahmed
The UAE came through the first real test of their 2012 London Olympics qualification after a battling 1-0 win over North Korea in the away leg of their two-legged knockout tie today.
Mohammed Ahmed latched on to an inviting long ball floated into the box from Mohammed Fawzi with a powerful header and that was enough for the UAE to gain the advantage when they face the Koreans again in Al Ain on Thursday.
Having conceded the goal in the 56th minute, the Koreans pressed hard for the equaliser but the UAE defence, marshaled by Hamdan al Kamali, kept their cool and remained solid throughout the 90 minutes.
The UAE survived a tough first half onslaught in which the Koreans had a couple of chances to draw first blood.
Ri Jin-hyok shot wide from 10 yards and from a one-on-one against Adel al Hosani, the UAE goalkeeper. The Al Wahda stopper made an excellent save from a close range effort from the Korean forward.
Ju Kwang-min, the Korean goalkeeper, did well to push out Ahmed Khalil's free kick from just outside the area which took a deflection from the wall.
The Koreans made a strong start to the second half. They forced two corners and also tested the visitor's goal with a free kick in a frantic five minutes, yet they could not break the deadlock.
The UAE could, as Ahmed rose the highest against two defenders to give his side a big advantage in the return leg.
The winner of this tie will be drawn into three groups of four with the winners of each advancing to the London Games while each of the runners up will go into a play-off round. They will then play the Confederation of African Football's fourth-place team.
Hiroshi Kiyotake scored one goal and set up another as Japan defeated Kuwait 3-1 in the first match of a two-leg qualifying tie.
Kiyotake, the Cerezo Osaka midfielder, was left unmarked in front of the Kuwait goal and headed home Yusuke Koga's cross in the 18th minute to give the hosts the lead.
Defender Mizuki Hamada doubled it in the 37th minute with a header from Kiyotake's corner kick.
Yuya Osaka made it 3-0 in the 61st minute but Jaber Jazea reduced Japan's lead seven minutes later with what could be a crucial away goal for Maher Alshemmari's side.
Elsewhere, Australia defeated Yemen 3-0 in Gosford, Australia, thanks to two goals from striker Jason Hoffman. Mitch Nichols also scored to give Australia a buffer to take into the second leg.
Australia had several off-target shots before Hoffman headed home Sebastian Ryall's cross in the 14th minute. Nichols added the second from close range in the 67th minute and Hoffman netted the third in stoppage time.
In Seoul, South Korea defeated Jordan 3-1. The midfielder Yoon Bitgaram scored the winner from the penalty spot in the 75th minute and Kim Dong-sub added a header 10 minutes later.
Mahmoud Saleem Mahmoud Za'tara opened the scoring for the visitors just before half-time. Kim Tae-hwan equalised early in the second half for South Korea, which is seeking its seventh consecutive Olympic appearance.
* with Agencies