Syria close in on early progression with fifth straight win
Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan move top of their respective groups
Qualifying action in Asia will resume in March
It was a night of mixed results for the group leaders entering Tuesday's sixth matchday of Asia's second round qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™. Syria opened up an eight-point gap in Group A with a fifth straight qualifying victory against Philippines to move closer to early progression to the next stage, while Qatar maintained their solitary-point lead with a 1-0 victory against Afghanistan.
Iraq and Vietnam, however, failed to reinforce their position at the top of Groups C and G respectively, following draws against Thailand and Bahrain. Despite those results, they remain at the summit of their respective groups.
Elsewhere, Uzbekistan bounced back to restore their place at the top of Group D following a 2-0 win over Palestine and fellow Central Asians Turkmenistan moved to the top of Group H with victory against Sri Lanka.
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Group A: Maldives 3-1 Guam, Syria 1-0 Philippines Group B: Nepal 0-1 Kuwait, Jordan 5-0 Chinese Taipei Group C: Hong Kong 2-0 Cambodia, Iraq 0-0 Bahrain Group D: Yemen 1-2 Singapore, Uzbekistan 2-0 Palestine Group E: Afghanistan 0-1 Qatar, Oman 1-0 India Group F: Myanmar 1-0 Mongolia, Kyrgyz Republic 1-1 Tajikistan Group G: Malaysia 2-0 Indonesia, Vietnam 0-0 Thailand Group H: Turkmenistan 2-0 Sri Lanka, Lebanon 0-0 Korea DPR
Malaysia 2-0 Indonesia (Rasid 30', 73')
On a day of few surprises, it was Malaysia's 2-0 home win against Indonesia in Group G which raised a number of eyebrows. Emerging star Safawi Rasid struck in each half as Tan Cheng Hoe's side followed up their 3-2 victory a few months ago in Jakarta by inflicting another blow on their close neighbours. In one of the region's top derbies, played in front of a fervent 80,000 capacity crowd at the Bukit Jalil Stadium, the visitors were the first to attack and came close to opening the scoring. Having weathered the early storm, however, the hosts took the lead on the half-hour mark courtesy of a Safawi free-kick.
The second half saw both sides produce chances of their own but Malaysia had the final say when Safawi scored from an acute angle to seal the tie. The victory, coupled with the goalless draw between leaders Vietnam and Thailand in the other match, saw the Malayan Tigers move into second place, with a key match-up against United Arab Emirates looming in March.
Midfielder Ward Salama scored the only goal as Group A leaders Syria stretched their outstanding run of consecutive victories to five with a 1-0 win against the Philippines in Dubai. The win saw Fajr Ibrahim's side open up an eight-point gap at the top, edging closer to an early spot in the next round. In the group's other match, efforts from Ali Samooh and Ali Ashfaq plus an own goal by Travis Nicklaw helped Maldives to a 3-1 victory against Guam at home, a result which moved them within a point of China PR and Philippines.
In Group B, second-placed Kuwait and Jordan both won against their respective rivals to close the gap on leaders Australia. The Kuwaitis defeated hosts Nepal by 1-0 with captain Bader Al Motawaa striking the winner while the Jordanians fired five unanswered goals past visiting Chinese Taipei.
Group C front-runners Iraq kept their two-point cushion intact despite being held to a goalless draw by second-placed Bahrain in Amman. Meanwhile, James Ha opened the scoring midway through the first half, before Roberto Junior struck the match-winner seven minutes from time as Hong Kong defeated ten-man Cambodia 2-0 at home to register their first win in the pool. The result saw Hong Kong trail IR Iran by just a point, making their meeting in March a mouthwatering prospect.
In Group D, a 2-0 win against Palestine at home saw Uzbekistan return to pole position in the pool. In-form striker Eldor Shomurodov struck in each half as the Central Asians bounced back to winning form and leapfrogged Saudi Arabia to the top of the table. The group's other match saw Singapore edge Yemen 2-1 in Bahrain to move to third place.
There were no changes in the top two of Group E, with leaders Qatar and second-placed Oman both prevailing. The Qataris did need a second-half penalty by Akram Afif to secure a solitary-goal victory against Afghanistan, who missed a spot-kick earlier in the first half. The Omanis, for their part, had Mohsin Al Ghassani to thank for scoring the only goal as they sealed a 1-0 win against India at home.
In Group F, Tamirlan Kozubaev struck late to cancel out Jahongir Ergashev's early goal as hosts Kyrgyz Republic came from behind to draw 1-1 with Tajikistan. The result left the two teams still level on points, trailing leaders Japan by five points. In the other match, Myanmar continued their resurgence under new boss Antoine Hey, defeating Mongolia 1-0 at home to register their second consecutive win. Bo Bo Hlaing's first-half strike proved the difference as Myanmar avenged their first-leg loss with a hard-fought victory.
In Group H, the matchday ended with Turkmenistan leapfrogging Korea Republic to the top of the standings. The Central Asians followed up their 3-1 victory against Korea DPR last time out by securing a 2-0 triumph against Sri Lanka courtesy of goals from Abdy Basimov and Altymyrat Annadurdyyew. The result, allied with Lebanon's goalless draw against Korea DPR, saw Ante Mise's side move a point clear at the top.
The compelling and difficult nature of this Asian qualifying campaign sees Asia's top-ranked sides - IR Iran and Korea Republic - sitting only third and second in their respective groups with the competition just past the halfway mark.