Australia underlined their status as Asia's top seeds by overcoming hosts Uzbekistan by a single goal in Tashkent, while Saudi Arabia came from a goal down to edge out the United Arab Emirates. At the same time, honours were even in the other two matches on Asia's Matchday 2 of the final qualifying round for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, with the Korean and Gulf derbies both finishing 1-1. Unfancied Qatar remain top of Group A with four points from two matches, while Korea DPR stand atop Group B along with Saudi Arabia.
There was certainly plenty of pressure on top seeds Australia as they met Uzbekistan in Tashkent, in their first-ever visit to central Asia. The home team went into the contest desperate for a win after their disastrous 3-0 defeat at the hands of Qatar, but it was coach Pim Verbeek's visitors who scored the only goal of the game, to get their qualifying campaign off to a flying start.
Spurred on by fanatical home support at the Pakhtakor Stadium, coach Rauf Inileyev charges pressed forward from the outset. However, the Socceroos had the first chance to open the scoring after 17 minutes, when Brett Emerton flashed a shot just over the bar. Only nine minutes later, Verbeek's side broke the deadlock, Luke Wilkshire crossing perfectly for an unmarked Scott Chipperfield, who popped up to head past Uzbekistan keeper Ignatiy Nesterov.
The Central Asians piled on could have levelled when Ulugbek Bakaev latched onto Server Djeparov's cross; his header flew past Mark Schwarzer, but was blocked by Brett Emerton on the goal-line. The hosts had the lion's share of possession in the second half and they did produce chances to equalize, but their profligacy in front of goal doomed them to defeat.
Goal of the day
Korea DPR 1-1 Korea Republic
Ki Seung-Yeung (69')
Korea DPR's defence has proved one of the tightest throughout Asia's qualifying campaign this year. While it seemed no easy task for strikers to score against the ultra-defensive North Koreans, Ki Seung-Yeung managed the feat when he cancelled out Hong Yong-Jo's second-half penalty. Only five minutes after Hong put Korea DPR ahead, Kim Do-Heon lofted a long ball in the direction of Ki on the edge of the area. The 23-year-old deftly chested the ball down, and kept his cool to notch his first goal on only his second international appearance.
Surprise of the day
While there were no results that could be considered particularly surprising, it was certainly an unusual round in that not a single match was won by the home side. Two visiting teams claimed victories, while the other two games were drawn.
Saudi Arabia continued their dominance over hosts United Arab Emirates as they came away 2-1 winners, to join Korea DPR at the top of Group B with four points. Bruno Metsu's outfit went 1-0 up in the first half, Subait Khater putting the home side into the lead after 23 minutes when the set-piece specialist scored directly from a corner kick. Saudi Arabia clawed themselves back into the game after the interval, and their efforts paid dividends as Abdoh Autef leveled the scoreline with a fierce right-footed shot, before second-half substitute Ahmed Al Fraidi sealed the win for the Sons of the Desert seventeen minutes from time.
Coach Jorge Fossati's Qatar continued their impressive start to the campaign, drawing 1-1 against Bahrain. The result, coupled with their 3-0 trouncing of Uzbekistan on the opening matchday, saw the tiny Gulf state leading Group A after the opening two games. Playing at home in Doha, Qatar got off to a dream start when their Uruguayan-born striker Sebastian Quintana opened the scoring after only 5 minutes. Bahrain, who lost 3-2 to Japan in the opener, had Abdulla Fatadi to thank as the midfielder equalized midway through the second half, to keep Milan Macala's men in the hunt.
The numbers game
3 is the number of draws which Korea Republic and Korea DPR have played out so far in qualifying for South Africa 2010. The previous two Korean derbies this year ended 0-0.
What they said
"We thought of the game as a must-win. But we failed again to get in behind their solid rearguard, and this was the key reason why we didn't win the contest." Huh Jung-Moo, Korea Republic coach