OSAKA, Japan (AP)Australia beat China 3-0 in the opening round of Asian World Cup qualifying on Thursday, while Japan surprisingly lost 1-0 to Oman.
Awer Mabil and Martin Boyle scored first-half goals for the Socceroos in a game played in Doha, Qatar, because of travel restrictions limiting entry into Australia. Mitchell Duke added a third with 20 minutes remaining.
”It was exactly what we expected as a team,” Boyle, who plays for Hibernian FC in Scotland, said. ”It’s nice to be on the scoresheet again and to carry my form from club football to here, so I’m happy.”
The win put Australia in first place in Group B above Oman. Substitute Issam Al-Sabhi swept home from close range in the 88th minute for Oman in rainy Osaka to claim victory against Asia’s top-ranked team.
It could have been worse for Japan as Oman, ranked 55 places lower, saw a second-half penalty overturned by VAR after the referee initially pointed to the spot following a handball by Yuto Nagatomo.
Japan has made six consecutive World Cup appearances, but Oman has never qualified. The Japanese enjoyed the majority of possession but struggled to create clear chances against their well-organized opponent.
”It was a disappointing defeat,” Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu said. ”Now the focus is to bounce back to take three points in the next game.”
That comes against China on Tuesday while Australia faces Vietnam in Hanoi. Vietnam, playing for the first time at this stage of qualification, lost 3-1 to Saudi Arabia despite taking an early lead through Nguyen Quang Hai.
The game in Riyadh turned after 55 minutes as Vietnamese defender Do Duy Manh was adjudged to have handled in the area and was also shown a second yellow card. Salem Al-Dawsari scored from the spot and soon after Yasser Al-Shahrani headed the host into the lead. The win was sealed with 10 minutes remaining as Saleh Al-Shehri fired home a penalty.
In Group A, South Korea was frustrated after being held by Iraq to a 0-0 draw in an empty Seoul World Cup Stadium.
The host, aiming for a 10th successive appearance at the World Cup, was in charge for much of the game against the hard-working visitors but could not break the deadlock.
Lee Jae-sung came closest, blasting over in the first half from close range after a goal-line clearance.
Hwang Hee-chan, who recently signed with English Premier League team Wolverhampton, headed straight at the goalkeeper from a good position after the break.
Iran boosted its chances of a third successive qualification campaign with a 1-0 win over Syria in Tehran. Alireza Jahanbakhsh scored the only goal just before the hour. The United Arab Emirates drew 0-0 with Lebanon in Dubai.
The top two from both six-team groups qualify automatically for next year’s World Cup. The third-place teams meet in a playoff and the winner then faces an opponent from another confederation.
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