Thursday's 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying matchday in Asia saw Thailand and Korea Republic close on progression with victories. A 4-2 defeat of Chinese Taipei at home leaves the Thais on the edge of qualification for the last 12 while the Taeguk Warriors established a five-point cushion at the summit after routing visiting Myanmar 4-0.
Japan leapfrogged Syria to the top with a 3-0 victory in Singapore while Iran, United Arab Emirates, Australia and China PR all bounced back to winning form. By doing so, the former moved to the section top and the latter trio cut the gap on their respective leaders. Elsewhere, Yemen, Tajikistan and India each tasted their first win as they kept their slim hopes of a place in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifying still alive. Join* FIFA.com* as we review these showdowns across Asia.
*Uzbekistan 3-1 Korea DPR
Igor Sergeev 23, Alexander Geynrikh 65, Odil Ahmedov; Ri Hyok Chol 2
In what was the two sides' third meeting this year in all competitions, Uzbekistan of Group H registered a spirited 3-1 victory at home as they reduced the gap on the visitors to just a point. Having been stunned 4-2 in unexpected fashion in the opener, the Uzbeks entered the return with nothing but revenge on their mind. It was, however, the fleet-footed visitors that took the lead courtesy of Ri Hyok Chol's early goal.
The hosts pressed harder thereafter and the equaliser came midway through the first half when Igor Sergeev, who scored the match-winner against the same opponents in January's 2015 AFC Asian Cup, connected with Server Djeparov's pin-point pass to draw level. Alexander Geynrikh came off the bench to put the home side in front and captain Odil Ahmedov put the icing on the cake by firing a bullet of a shot into the roof of the net. Bottom side Yemen stunned hosts Philippines 1-0 in a thriller in Manila.
The other attractions
*Captain Ahmed Khalil scored four times as United Arab Emirates from *Group A thrashed visiting Timor-Leste 8-0. The result, coupled with Saudi Arabia's goalless draw against Palestine three days ago, saw the Emirates trail the Saudi leaders by three points. In the other outing, Palestine continued to impress by beating Malaysia 6-0 with Ahmad Abu Nahyeh completing a treble.
In* Group B, Australia put three unanswered goals past Kyrgyzstan at home as they maintained pressure on pace-setters Jordan. Captain Mile Jedinak put the hosts ahead with a spot-kick before the break before Tim Cahill made it 2-0 for the hosts shortly after the restart. Aaron Mooy's venomous corner-kick caused an own goal by Ildar Amirov as the *Socceroos won comfortably at home. Tajikistan, meanwhile, grabbed their first victory with a 5-0 home defeat of Bangladesh with Manuchekhr Dzhalilov on target four times.
Paulinho scored the only goal from the spot in the first half as visiting Hong Kong of* Group C* grabbed a precious away victory, a result which saw them close on leaders Qatar. Elsewhere, Yang Xu scored four times and Yu Hanchao, Yu Dabao and Wang Yongpo each grabbed a brace apiece as hosts China produced the matchday’s biggest win by mauling Bhutan 12-0. Despite the victory, Alain Perrin's side remain in third, trailing Qatar and Hong Kong by five and three points respectively.
In Group E, Japan avenged their goalless draw to Singapore at home with a resounding 3-0 away victory in the return match as they moved onto the section summit at the expense of Syria. Two quickfire goals by Mu Kanazaki and Keisuke Honda gave the Samurai Blue a 2-0 first-half lead, before Maya Yoshida sealed the three points. Afghanistan registered their second victory against pointless Cambodia by an identical scoreline.
Group D hopefuls Iran earned return to the top after defeating Turkmenistan 3-1 at home. Morteza Pouraliganji headed the hosts into lead inside just seven minutes but Mekan Saparow equalised for the visitors just past the hour mark to put the game to a knife's edge. With so much at stake, Saeid Ezatolahi restored the hosts' lead two minutes later before Ashkan Dejagah rounded off the triumph with a penalty. India pulled off a morale-boosting 1-0 win against visiting Guam with Robin Singh netting the match-winning goal as they earned their first points.
Group F leaders Thailand came from behind to overcome a resilient Chinese Taipei in a pulsating match at home as they moved within a whisker to progression. In what proved an eventful game, the hosts had to wait until four minutes before the break for Teerasil Dangda to cancel out Yaki Yen's early opener. Pokklaw Anan made it 2-1 for the Thais but Huang Kai-chun restored parity for the visitors. With so much at stake, Tana Chanabut set up fan-favourite Adisak Kraisorn to put the home side ahead before the provider turned scorer by sealing a hard-fought win.
Group G front-runners Korea Republic thumped bottom side Myanmar 4-0 at home as the Taeguk Warriors maintained their unblemished record in this campaign and extended their lead to five points. Elsewhere, captain Roda Antar was on target as Lebanon cruised to a 7-0 triumph at home against Laos as they moved into second place alongside inactive Kuwait.
*With young ace-striker Sardar Azmoun missing due to injury, *Ashkan Dejagah rose to the occasion by firing Iran to victory against Turkmenistan. The former Wolfsburg forward, who nearly caught Argentina off guard in last year's World Cup clash, proved the key man as the hosts clinched the crucial points. He provided the assist for Pouraliganji's opener and having seen an effort denied by the upright, he got his name on the scoresheet by converting a spot-kick.
*Do you know?
*Japan and Korea Republic are the only two sides out of the 39 teams that have maintained an overall clean sheet with zero goals conceded so far this campaign.
What they said
*"I don't look at the scoreboard. A lot of time it just lies. It's often irrelevant. I could see we were dominant, we were creating opportunities. I would prefer we won 10-0 which we should have done," *Australia coach Ange Postecoglou
Matchday 7 results:
*Group A: Palestine 6-0 Malaysia, United Arab Emirates 8-0 Timor-Leste
Group B: Tajikistan 5-0 Bangladesh, Australia 3-0 Kyrgyzstan
Group C: Maldives 0-1 Hong Kong, China PR 12-0 Bhutan
Group D: Iran 3-1 Turkmenistan, India 1-0 Guam
Group E: Singapore 0-3 Japan, Afghanistan 3-0 Cambodia
Group F: Thailand 4-2 Chinese Taipei
Group G: Korea Republic 4-0 Myanmar, Lebanon 7-0 Laos
Group H: Philippines 0-1 Yemen, Uzbekistan 3-1 Korea DPR