Bahrain closed to within a point of Group B leaders Korea Republic in the AFC Final Round qualifiers for the 2008 Beijing Olympics as goals by Jaycee Okwunwanne and Abdullah Omar gave them a 2-0 victory over Uzbekistan at Bahrain National Stadium on Wednesday.
Okwunwanne gave his side the lead just before the interval and Omar scored early in the second period to give Bahrain their third win in four matches as they moved up to nine points, one behind the Koreans, who were held to a goalless draw in Syria earlier in the day.
Having only managed a point from their first three games, Uzbekistan needed a win to keep alive their slim hopes of Olympic qualification and they started the match strongly, controlling the early play although they failed to offer a real threat on the Bahraini goal.
It was the home side that crafted the first real chance in the 24th minute when Abdulla Fadati advanced into the area and got away a shot that went just wide of the left upright.
Two minutes later, the Uzbeks responded with a weak shot from Aziz Ibragimov which didn’t really trouble Bahrain goalkeeper Sayed Jaafar.
Bahrain could have opened the scoring in the 33rd as striker Ismaeel Abdullatif failed to connect cleanly with a cross from the left by Abdullah Omar while at the other end, a free kick by Azizbek Haydarov was cleared was by Sayed Jaafar.
The hosts went close again in the 39th minute when Nigeria-born striker Okwunwanne beat the Uzbek offside trap and laid off a pass to Abdullatif, whose attempt went straight at Uzbek goalkeeper Aziz Ashurov.
However, the home side would break the deadlock just thirty seconds before the interval as Abdullatif went down the left flank and sent an inviting low cross towards Okwunwanne, who back-heeled the ball into the net to open the scoring.
Uzbekistan went into the second half determined to draw level and they controlled the early play once again only to be hit by a sucker punch 10 minutes after the restart as the dangerous duo of Okwunwanne and Abdullatif combined effectively once again.
Okwunwanne broke down the left and crossed to an unmarked Abdullatif, who laid off the ball for an advancing Omar who fired a right-footed shot past Ashurov.
Bahrain nearly added a third in the 61st minute when Fatadi met a corner with a powerful header which beat Ashurov but was cleared off the goal-line.
The hosts gradually took their foot off the gas in the closing minutes but were able to maintain their lead as they kept up the pressure on group leaders Korea with two rounds of games remaining.