Asian favourites open brightly
The long road to AFC Asian Cup qualifying commenced on Wednesday in positive fashion for those nations still in the hunt for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. Five of the seven nations that are chasing dual goals began their Australia 2015 campaign in winning fashion. Notably, Iran put five unanswered goals past Lebanon, while Jordan continued their red hot form with an emphatic 4-0 home win against Singapore.
Qatar, meanwhile, got past Malaysia 2-0, while Iraq and Oman each secured solitary-goal wins over Indonesia and Syria. Elsewhere, Saudi Arabia saw off China PR 2-1 at home and newly-crowned Gulf Cup champions United Arab Emirates overcame hosts Vietnam by the same scoreline. Join FIFA.com as we review the action across Asia.
Iran 5-0 Lebanon
Iran entered the Group B contest desperately seeking to rediscovering their goalscoring form, having managed to hit the net just twice in five outings during Asia's final qualifying round for Brazil 2014. And the supporters at Tehran's Azadi Stadium were treated to a one-sided triumph, with captain Javad Nekonam bagging a treble and Belgium-based Reza Ghoochannejhad completing a brace.
Ghoochannejhad opened the scoring midway through the opening half, before Nekonam doubled the lead with a spot-kick in first-half stoppage time. The skipper made it 3-0 just after the hour mark with a second penalty conceded by Nour Mansour for fouling Ashkan Dejagah, leading to the former’s dismissal. Ghoochannejhad put the game beyond doubt with a close-range shot shortly afterwards, before Nekonam iced the cake ten minutes from time. The result leaves Iran at the section’s top ahead of Kuwait, who scored an important 3-1 victory over Thailand in Bangkok.
Uzbekistan 0-0 Hong Kong
While there were few surprises during the opening matchday, Hong Kong from Group E surely claimed the biggest result by holding 2011 semi-finalists Uzbekistan to a goalless draw as they grabbed a precious away point in Tashkent. The result reminiscent of their meetings during 2007 AFC Asian Cup qualifying, when they negotiated two draws against the central Asians.
Taking heart from their previous showings, the visitors nearly took the lead with Chan Siu Ki firing just over. Hong Kong were reduced to ten man before the hour mark with Lo Kwan Yee's dismissal, but they displayed impressive resolve and the Uzbeks had goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov to thank as he denied substitute Lam Hok Hei in the closing stages. The draw leaves United Arab Emirates, who defeated Vietnam 2-1, at the top of the section.
The other attractions
In Group A, Ahmad Hayel scored a brace while Abdullah Deeb and Khalil Baniateyah were also on target as Jordan ran riot against newly-crowned AFF Suzuki Cup winners Singapore in the opener. The section's other game saw Paul Le Guen’s Oman secure a hard-fought home victory against a brave Syria, with Abdulaziz Al Maqbali scoring the only goal of the game six minutes before the break.
In Group C, Saudi Arabia new coach Juan Ramon Lopez Caro got his tenure off to a good start with a 2-1 home defeat of China. Fahad Al Muwallad put the hosts ahead on 23 minutes and after Zhao Xuri drew the Chinese level, substitute Naif Hazazi grabbed the match-winning goal 13 minutes from time. In the other group game, Iraq scraped past a defensive Indonesia with captain Younis Mahmoud scoring the only goal.
Group D's Qatar and Bahrain share top spot after defeating Malaysia and Yemen by an identical 2-0 scoreline. Khalfan Ibrahim gave the Qataris the lead with a deflected free-kick ten minutes after the restart, before Yusef Ahmed settled the contest with an injury-time strike. Bahrain, meanwhile, were indebted to Faouzi Aaish and Saad Al Amer's second-half goals as they won in Yemen.
Having finished joint top-scorer as UAE won the recent Gulf Cup, Ahmed Khalil continued his prolific goalscoring form in their 2-1 defeat of Vietnam. The 21-year-old 2008 AFC Youth Player of the Year opened the scoring with an early spot-kick as they avenged a 2-0 loss to the hosts in a 2007 AFC Asian Cup group game.
5 - All five south-east Asian teams lost in the opening round.
What they said
"I appreciate the effort from my players; they kept fighting and never gave up. After we lost at home to Uzbekistan we needed to do something to relieve the pressure and we were able to beat Lebanon 5-0 which will alleviate the negative atmosphere," Iran coach Carlos Queiroz
2015 AFC Asian Cup qualifying matchday 1 results
Group A: Oman 1-0 Syria, Jordan 4-0 Singapore
Group B: Iran 5-0 Lebanon, Thailand 1-3 Kuwait
Group C: Iraq 1-0 Indonesia, Saudi Arabia 2-1 China PR
Group D: Yemen 0-2 Bahrain, Qatar 2-0 Malaysia
Group E: Uzbekistan 0-0 Hong Kong, Vietnam 1-2 United Arab Emirates