Korea Republic remained on course to appear at their eighth straight FIFA World Cup™ after playing out a highly entertaining 2-2 draw with Uzbekistan in Tashkent today.
Uzbekistan took the early lead at Pakthakor Stadium when Ki Sungyeung headed into his own net after 13 minutes, but the Japan/Korea Republic 2002 semi-finalists got back on terms just before half-time through a header by skipper Kwak Tae Hwi. Veteran striker Lee Dong Gook fired the visitors ahead in the 57th minute but Sanjar Tursunov headed Uzbekistan's equaliser two minutes later to ensure that the points were shared.
Although Korea Republic dropped points for the first time in the final round of Asian qualifying, they remain top of Group A with seven points from three games. Uzbekistan, however, still have plenty of work to do if they hope to qualify for their first FIFA World Cup as they remain winless with only two points from three.
The home side's greater need for the win was apparent as they began the match with clear urgency and they nearly took the lead in the 11th minute. Ulugbek Bakaev chipped past Korean goalkeeper Jung Sungryong, only for the ball to be cleared off the line by a covering defender.
However, Uzbekistan went ahead from the resulting corner as Asian player of the year Server Djeparov's set-piece was flicked on by Tursunov towards the six-yard box, where Sungyeung inadvertently guided the ball into his own net.
Tursunov had a great chance to add to the lead midway through the first half when he was picked out in the box by Jasur Hasanov and sold a dummy to Lee Jung Soo, only to see his shot turned away by Jung.
The Koreans took control in the latter stages of the half and drew level in the 43rd minute. Sungyeung made amends for his earlier miscue by floating an inviting free-kick into the box that was met by Tae Hwi, who headed the ball to the goal-line where Artyom Filiposyan knocked it into his own net under pressure from Lee Chungyong.
The Koreans then took the lead 12 minutes after the break when Park Joo Ho's cross from the left picked out an unmarked Lee Dong Gook, who controlled it before dispatching a low shot past Uzbek 'keeper Ignatiy Nesterov.
The lead would not last long though as another Djeparov corner from the right picked out Tursunov, who flicked a glancing near-post header into the net. The home side had a chance to win the game in stoppage time but Bakaev could only succeed in driving across goal, just out of the reach of an unmarked Timur Kapadze.