China hold Saudis to goalless draw in Asian Cup qualifying
National team will need at least a draw against Iraq in March in their final group match if they want to play in the 2015 finals in Australia
China must wait until their tough final qualifier away to Iraq in March before learning whether they will make it to their 11th successive Asian Cup.
The team led by caretaker manager Fu Bo and watched by his mooted successor, Guangzhou Evergrande boss Marcello Lippi, made all the running in Xian on Tuesday night but just failed to deliver the killer blow as their fate was left hanging in the balance after a 0-0 draw with Saudi Arabia. Still, China are on an eight-match unbeaten run under Fu and can look ahead with confidence to the showdown with Iraq.
Guangzhou right-back Zhang Linpeng had a strong late penalty shot turned down and his club teammate Huang Bowen put a free kick inches wide with the last kick of the game.
"I think we can accept this result," said China captain Zheng Zhi. "We did not have clear chance to score but our defence had a great performance,"
Group rivals Iraq beat Indonesia 2-0 in Jakarta to pull within two points of China, who currently occupy group C's second automatic qualifying spot behind leaders Saudi Arabia, who have already qualified for the 2015 finals to be held in Australia.
China and Iraq will meet in Dubai on March 5, with the mainland side needing just a draw to seal qualification.
Meanwhile, Oman and Qatar also qualified for the finals on Tuesday night night. Qatar beat Malaysia 1-0 in group D in Kuala Lumpur with Abdulkarim Salem scoring the winner in the 65th minute, while Oman needed an injury-time goal from Eid Al Farsi to overcome Syria by the same score in Tehran. The match was played in the Iranian capital because of the ongoing conflict in Syria.