Qatar 1 - Australia 3

Australia has cemented a place for itself in the final phase of Asian World Cup qualifying after posting an impressive 3-1 victory away from home in the hot desert conditions of Qatar.

A brace for Brett Emerton, one in each half, and a volley by Harry Kewell wrapped the points up for Pim Verbeek's team midway through the second period. Qatar got a late consolation in the 90th minute but it was never going to be enough.

Australia began brightly and got the goal it needed in the 17th minute, and then took its foot off the pedal for a while as the Qataris intensified their efforts to grab an equaliser.

Mark Schwarzer, beaten in freak circumstances by Emad Mohammed for Iraq's winner last weekend, showed how important he is to the team by pulling off a string of good saves during the 20 minutes that Qatar really threatened before the interval.

Australia took the sting out of the game in the second period and their _ and Emerton's _ second goal came just at the right time to ensure Qatari heads would drop.

In difficult conditions it was, said Verbeek and several senior players, a measure of how far the team had come that it could win convincingly against tough opponents in an away World Cup qualifier.

With Iraq having beaten China 2-1 earlier in the day the Chinese are now eliminated, ensuring that their final tie, against Australia in Sydney on Sunday, is a dead rubber. Nevertheless, Australian soccer chiefs want to make the game a celebration of how far it has come.

Australia will, however, be missing Schwarzer, who was shown a yellow card for alleged timewasting when he was clearing a large plastic bag from his area, and full backs Luke Wilkshire and David Carney, both of whom picked up yellow cards.

Schwarzer was called into action as soon as the first minute when he had to turn a free kick from Qatar midfielder Wesam Rizik over the bar for a corner.

The Qataris, roared on by their noisy fans in the small but atmospheric Al Sadd stadium, were a completely different proposition to the side that had collapsed so badly the first time these two teams met in Melbourne four months ago, when Australia ran out 3-0 winners.

Qatar had picked up seven points from a possible nine in the three games since, and it was easy to see why as they worked hard, pressed Australia and gave them little time to settle on the ball and sought to exploit the pace of their wide men.

At the other end Brett Holman fed a pass to Kewell, but the captain's shot was blocked and then Holman _ like Mark Bresciano, one of two changes to the starting line up from the side that lost to Iraq _ almost caught out Qatar goalkeeper Mohamed Saqr with a cross.

Qatar's hopes were pinned on naturalised Uruguayan striker Sebastian Soria, an absentee through suspension when these sides met each other for the first time at Docklands (Telstra Dome) Stadium in February. He gave the first indication of how threatening he could be when he muscled his way clear in the 14th minute only to be stopped by a strong Michael Beauchamp tackle.

Australia got the breakthrough they wanted in the 17th minute, and, as in Sydney three years ago when Bresciano scored the winner against Uruguay in that fateful World Cup qualifier, there was a Harry Kewell miskick which set the chance up perfectly for Brett Emerton.

Holman passed to Bresciano wide on the left, and he threaded a low cross to Kewell. Australia's captain missed his kick, but the ball slid through perfectly Emerton to side foot home.

Qatar did not drop their heads and came back hard at the visitors. Schwarzer did well to save Soria's first time shot after he was played into space by Rizik's long ball.

Fabio Cesar, another of Qatar's imported South Americans, produced a terrific run into space but his final pass let him down while Soria, a strong, tall, speedy presence, bullocked his way towards goal with a run that only ended when he was brought down on the edge of the penalty area. Fabio's dangerous free kick was tipped over by Schwarzer as the Australian goal led a charmed life.

If Qatar went to the interval feeling luck had not been on their side in the first half they felt even worse ten minutes after the restart when Australia doubled its advantage, again through Emerton, in the 56th minute. It was a goal of directness, but nonetheless stylish for that as Schwarzer punted the ball long down the centre, Kewell flicked it on and Holman lobbed the Qatar defence allowing the Blackburn Rovers utility Emerton to run in behind and finish past Saqr.

Two goals to the good, Australia was in control and played with fluency as Qatar struggled to regain anything like the initiative they had enjoyed in latter stages of the first 45 minutes.

The west Asian side had a shout for a penalty when Soria went to ground in the 70th minute under a challenge from David Carney but Korean referee Gi Young Lee waved play on.

Australia put the match beyond Qatar's reach shortly afterwards when Kewell crowned a good performance with a sweetly struck volley to make it three. Holman, who had been lively throughout, floated a cross from the right which the Qatar defence failed to deal with and the ball bounced through to Kewell who found himself clear in space. He took one touch with his right foot to control the ball before smashing past Saqr from an acute angle with his left.

Soria had a chance to snare a consolation for Qatar, but his free kick through the wall was held by Schwarzer.

Kewell made way for Bruce Djite with five minutes left on the clock as Verbeek made his first change. The Socceroos had shown their fitness last week in Dubai when they had run the game out stronger than Iraq, and they did the same here in Doha.

There was less than a minute left on the clock in normal time when Khalfan Ibrahim netted the rebound after Schwarzer had beaten out a goalbound shot. While comfortably beaten in the end, it was hard to argue that Qatar did not deserve that scant consolation for their purposeful first half performance.

They now go to Dubai to take on a resurgent Iraq in a match that will decide second place in the so-called Group of Death next weekend.

Written by Michael Lynch