China inched closer to booking a place in the World Cup finals for the first time in their history after beating the United Arab Emirates by a solitary goal in Group B of the Asian Football Confederation qualifiers on Thursday. China now lead the group with 13 points while their closest rivals, Qatar, have eight points. The United Arab Emirates are in third position with seven points from their six matches.
The UAE played host to China and the home side pressed hard early on. The 27th minute saw Yaser Salem with a good chance, but his header went over the bar. Salem's effort did not please Tini Ruijis, the UAE's new Dutch coach brought in after their defeat against Qatar.
China retaliated with captain Ma Mingyu firing from just outside the box. Emirates keeper Mutaz Abdullah failed to gather cleanly but recovered quickly to avert any danger.
China dominated the possession and it paid off for them in the 42nd minute. Sun Jihai's curling cross glanced home by Qi Hong, making the score 1-0.
Hong almost doubled the lead five minutes into the second half. Yang Chen's header found Hong, but his shot went over.
Emirates had their chances but failed to convert substitute Bakhit Saad's right-footer from 30 yards which hit the cross bar. Al Kas Saeed's header from the rebound was off target.
Four minutes later, Fahed Masoud could only watch in despair as his curling shot shaved the woodwork, with China holding on to a 1-0 win.