Last Updated: November 22, 2023, 02:00 IST
HONG KONG:South Korea’s Son Heung-min scored twice and set up the third in a 3-0 win over China as Asia’s top sides claimed victories in the second round of qualifying on Tuesday for the 2026 World Cup.
Japan, Australia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia all won, while Kuwait and North Korea scored a flurry of goals en route to victories.
Australia and Palestine players stood for a minute’s silence ahead of their game, which was played in Kuwait due to the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Son was in top form as South Korea completed back-to-back wins at the start of their challenge for a place at the 2026 finals.
He put the Koreans in front in the Group C clash in the second phase of Asia’s preliminaries when he steered an 11th-minute penalty to the right of Chinese goalkeeper Yan Junling.
He added the second in the 45th minute with a header following Lee Kang-in’s corner before turning provider three minutes from time when he drifted in a free kick that Jung Seung-hyun headed past Yan to seal the victory.
The win maintains the Koreans’ perfect record after two games in the second round of qualifying for the 2026 World Cup and was China’s first defeat after winning against Thailand on Thursday.
The Thais bounced back from that loss to beat Singapore 3-1 with Suphanat Mueanta scoring twice in the second half for Mano Polking’s team, who move level with China on three points.
Japan also recorded a second successive win with Ayase Ueda scoring twice in a 5-0 thrashing of Syria in Jeddah that gives Hajime Moriyasu’s side a three-point lead over North Korea and the Syrians in Group B.
Jong Il Gwan scored a hat-trick as North Korea picked up their first win of the campaign with a 6-1 thrashing of Myanmar in Yangon having started their quest for a place at the finals last Thursday with a loss against Syria.
Harry Souttar scored the only goal in Australia’s 1-0 win over Palestine in Group I, which was played in Kuwait’s Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium due to the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict.
Players held a minute’s silence ahead of kickoff before Souttar scored the game’s only goal with an 18th-minute header.
Australia are top of the group with six points, four ahead of Lebanon who drew 1-1 with Bangladesh.
Second-half goals from Oston Orunov and Igor Sergeev saw Uzbekistan fight back from a two-goal halftime deficit to draw 2-2 with Iran in Group E, leaving both teams on four points, three ahead of Hong Kong and Turkmenistan following their 2-2 draw.
Mohanad Ali scored six minutes into injury time to earn Iraq a 1-0 win over hosts Vietnam in Group F as Jesus Casas’ side moved onto six points.
Vietnam remain second in the group standings after the Philippines and Indonesia shared a 1-1 draw in Manila.
Substitute Darren Lok claimed the only goal as Malaysia defeated Taiwan for their second win in Group D while Kyrgyzstan won 1-0 against Oman to join the Gulf side on three points.
Qatar won their second game in a row with a 3-0 defeat of India in Group A and Yemen picked up their first victory in Group H with a 2-0 win over Nepal.
Tajikistan downed Pakistan 6-1 with Amadoni Kamolov hitting a brace in Islamabad in Group G, while Saudi Arabia’s Saleh Al Shehri scored twice in a 2-0 win over Jordan, who sit third in the group with just one point after two matches.
Also maintaining a perfect record in Group H were United Arab Emirates with a 2-0 victory over Bahrain after a powerful first-half strike from Abdalla Bekheet and a penalty a minute from fulltime which Ali Mabkhout converted.
Kuwait, meanwhile, thrashed Afghanistan 4-0 away to move into second place in Group A behind Qatar.
The qualifying games will resume in March next year.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – Reuters)
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