2018 World Cup results: Iraq pay the penalty as Saudi Arabia convert two late spot kicks
SHAH ALAM, MALAYSIA // Nawaf Al Abed buried two penalties in the last nine minutes as Saudi Arabia came from a goal down to beat regional rivals Iraq 2-1 in 2018 World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.
War-torn Iraq, playing their home fixture in Malaysia’s Shah Alam, struck early through Mohannad Abdulraheem and looked headed for victory as the clock ticked down.
But on 81 minutes, after Saad Natiq brought down Hassan Muath in the box, Abed drilled home a powerful equaliser from the spot.
• In pictures: UAE’s road to Russia 2018 hits a Tim Cahill-shaped roadblock
And there was more to come after Abed won another penalty, which he converted in the 87th minute to hand the Saudis their second win in two third-round Asian qualifying matches so far.
It takes Abed’s tally to three late penalties in Saudi Arabia’s two games after he hit the 84th-minute winner from the spot in last week’s 1-0 victory over Thailand.
The result badly dents Iraq’s chances of winning one of the two automatic berths for Russia 2018 from the six-team Group B, after they lost last week’s opener 2-0 to Australia.
Japan bounce back from UAE defeat to record 2-0 win over Thailand
Takuma Asano bounced back from last week’s disallowed goal controversy as he hit Japan’s second in a 2-0 win over Thailand which reignited their World Cup qualifying bid on Tuesday.
Asano was denied a clear goal in Thursday’s 2-1 defeat to UAE when officials failed to see his shot had crossed the line, but there was no doubt when he scored in Bangkok.
After Genki Haraguchi’s first-half opener, Asano squeezed his shot under goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan to give Japan a two-goal cushion on 75 minutes.
The victory restores Japan’s fortunes in Group B, where they are aiming to become one of two teams to win automatic qualification for Russia 2018.
Japan ran Thailand ragged, with the passing and movement of AC Milan’s Keisuke Honda and Borussia Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa cutting through the home side’s defence with ease.
Former Manchester United man Kagawa missed several clear chances.
But the breakthrough came on 17 minutes as Hertha Berlin’s Haraguchi stooped to head home a deliciously weighted cross from the right.
It threatened a deluge of goals but Thailand clung on, thanks largely to goalkeeper Kawin who made several sharp saves to keep his side in the game.
His heroics nearly paid dividends on 70 minutes when a sweetly timed reverse pass put Thailand striker Teerasil Dangda through on the Japanese goal.
But the one-time Almeria loan player – Thailand’s first export to Spain’s Primera Liga – could only scoop his shot at the goalkeeper.
Five minutes later Asano, on loan at Stuttgart from Arsenal, pounced on a bungled clearance and his shot squirmed under the diving Kawin, sparking joy among the Japanese fans.
Thailand, who have not beaten Japan since 1997, now have an uphill task following two defeats in the space of a week.
They went down 1-0 to Saudi Arabia on Thursday after a contentious late penalty decision against them.
Stoic Syria keep South Korea at bay
South Korea hit a speed bump in their bid to reach a 10th World Cup as they were held to a goalless draw on Tuesday against a Syrian side that is unable to play at home due to the country’s long-running, bloody conflict.
The frustrated South Koreans dominated possession during the match held in the Malaysian city of Seremban but largely failed to threaten the Syrian goal.
In their best chance, midfielder Lee Chung-yong was denied thanks to a fine save by the Syrian goalkeeper Ibrahim Alma early in the second half.
The frantic Koreans stepped up the pressure in the final 20 minutes, but Syria defended in numbers to secure the draw despite playing eight minutes of extra time after several Syrian injuries.
In all, South Korea peppered Syria with 14 shots but just two of them were on target, compared to seven Syrian shots overall, four of them on target. The Koreans also had 12 corner kicks to just one for Syria.
South Korea, who dispatched China 3-2 last week, were expected to notch an easy win against Syria, who lost 1-0 to Uzbekistan in their previous match.
With the Syrians unable to play at home, the match was shifted to Malaysia last week after the collapse of talks that would have seen the Chinese territory of Macau play host.
It was held at the 20,000-seat Paroi Stadium in Seremban, south of the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.
China hold Asian powerhouse Iran to stalemate in Shenyang
China’s World Cup hopes brightened on Tuesday when they held heavyweights Iran 0-0.
Defeat to Asia’s top-ranked side would have dented China’s hopes of reaching only their second World Cup but in the end it was a close game in Shenyang.
China’s point, their first of Asia’s final qualifying round, keeps them in touch with the leaders in six-team Group A, where the top two will win an automatic spot at Russia 2018.
China have only ever reached one World Cup, in 2002, but qualifying for Russia 2018 would be a significant statement for a country which aims to become a global football power.
There were encouraging signs in last week’s 3-2 defeat to South Korea, and Iran, Asia’s top-ranked side, would have held few fears for Gao Hongbo’s men in front of a partisan, red-shirted home crowd.
A dire first half was more notable for its fouls than its goalmouth action as both sides struggled to gain momentum on a poor pitch in Shenyang.
But China attacked with renewed intent after the break and it was a different spectacle in the second half as the game opened up.
Alireza Jahanbakhsh should have netted for Iran but he blazed a glorious chance over, while Dutch-based Zhang Yuning was denied by Morteza Pouraliganji’s desperate block.
Iran goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand smothered at the feet of Wu Lei and Chinese substitute goalkeeper Gu Chao saved sharply in the final minute to ensure China’s first point of Group A.
Defeat to Carlos Queiroz’s team would have slashed China’s chances of reaching the World Cup but they are now three points back from Iran and South Korea in fourth spot.
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Published: September 6, 2016 04:00 AM