Doha (AFP) – Australia continued their relentless march towards next year’s World Cup in Qatar after beating Oman 3-1, notching up a world record 11 consecutive wins in qualifying on Thursday.
Kenya-born Awer Mabil scored the opening goal in the ninth minute while Martin Boyle and Mitchel Duke added to the tally in the second half as the Socceroos took charge of Group B in the third and final round of the Asian World Cup qualifiers.
Australia had coasted through the previous qualifying rounds with eight wins on the trot while Thursday’s success against Oman ensured they stayed perfect with three wins from as many matches in the last round.
In the process they overtook Mexico, Spain and Germany who scored 10 straight wins during their qualifying campaigns for the 2006, 2010 and 2018 World Cups respectively.
Australia are level on points with Saudi Arabia but keep their top spot on goal difference in a very competitive group that also has Japan battling for the two automatic spots.
Super-sub Firas al-Buraikan struck the only goal in the 71st minute as Saudi Arabia handed Japan a 1-0 defeat.
It was the third straight win for the Saudis while Japan – who lost to Oman 1-0 earlier in the tournament – suffered a second defeat.
The Saudis, playing in front of a near capacity crowd at the King Abdulla Sports City in Jeddah, dominated possession from the outset and could have won by more if some luck had gone their way.
However, it was Japan who had the first real crack at the goal but Gaki Shibasaki’s ambitious effort from more than 30 yards was expertly tipped away for a corner by Saudi goalie Mohamed al-Owais.
Saudi Arabia’s Abdullah Madu then produced a fine header off a cross from Abdulrahman Ghareeb but Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda came up with a reflex save to foil his effort.
Al-Owais and Gonda continued to excel for their sides before al-Buraikan broke the deadlock with a cool strike.
After coming in for Saleh al-Shehri in the 64th minute, the 21-year-old forward took advantage of a misdirected back pass from Shibakasi, advanced several yards on the left flank, and slotted the ball through Gonda’s legs.
– Son strikes late –
In Sharjah, Wu Lei struck twice, including an injury time winner as China beat Vietnam 3-2 for their first win after two straight losses.
The Espanyol striker kept China’s hopes of qualifying alive with his goal in the fifth minute of added time after Vietnam had fought back from a two-goal deficit.
Tottenham star Son Heung-min scored an 89th-minute winner in Ansanto to give South Korea a nervy 2-1 home win over Syria.
The talisman forward saved the Koreans from what would have been a deeply disappointing draw and means they top Group A after two wins and a draw in three matches.
The home team dominated the first half but the two sides went to the break goalless after Syria goalkeeper Ibrahim Alma made several smart stops.
The tide shifted in favour of the home team in the 48th minute when Hwang In-beom shot with his left foot from outside the box, sending the ball into the opposite corner to open the scoring.
It looked as though the match would end in a 1-0 win for Son and his side, but then Syria’s Omar Khrbin scored an equaliser in the 84th minute to stun South Korea.
Premier League star Son stepped forward when his side needed him most, striking the winner from close range.
Iran edged out the UAE 1-0 to remain perfect with three wins in as many matches
Mehdi Taremi scored the all-important goal in the 70th minute in Dubai as the Iranians stayed top of Group A with nine points.
Iraq and Lebanon played out a goalless draw at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.
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