Asian zone World Cup qualifications: China shines while South Korea slips up

South Korea was high on confidence and enjoyed the majority of possession, with Syria happy to sit back and defend, but only created a few chances of note.


Japan's Genki Haraguchi celebrates after scoring the opening goal against Thailand.

Syria South Korea Asian Zone World Cup Qualifiers AFC

Syria held South Korea to a 0-0 draw in Malaysia

South Korea had to settle for a goalless draw in Tuesday’s AFC World Cup qualifier versus Syria on neutral ground in Malaysia.

Uli Stielike's men beat China 3-2 in its Group A opener, whereas Syria started the final round-robin stage of AFC qualification with a 1-0 defeat to Uzbekistan last week.

South Korea was high on confidence and enjoyed the majority of possession, with Syria happy to sit back and defend, but only created a few chances of note.

Syria failed to trouble its opponent on the counter-attack as both sides dropped two precious points in the bid to reach the 2018 finals in Russia.

South Korea made a fine start to the game and could have gone a goal up after just 12 minutes when Koo Ja-cheol popped up in a dangerous position after a clever throughball, only for Syria goalkeeper Ibrahim Alma to deny the midfielder with a fine save.

Moayad Al Ajan's opportunistic free kick from 30 yards out shortly before the break represented Syria's biggest opportunity, though shot stopper Kim Seung-gyu was not worried by the strike.

The visitor continued to dominate after the break and was unfortunate not to break the deadlock through Lee Chung-yong in the 57th minute. Yong Lee did well to reach the Crystal Palace winger with a low cross after a good run down the right, but Alma pulled off a superb save to push his attempt wide for a corner.

Stielike's men pressed hard for the winner in the closing stages of the game, but their efforts were to no avail as it ended all square in Seremban.

Thailand 0 Japan 2: Dominant visitor seal deserved triumph

Japan put its opening Group B loss behind it with a 2-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Thailand in Bangkok.

Vahid Halilhodzic's men were beaten 2-1 by United Arab Emirates at the start of the month, but produced a dominant display on Tuesday to get off the mark.

Genki Haraguchi headed the visitor into a deserved first-half lead against a Thailand side which also suffered defeat last time out, going down 1-0 against Saudi Arabia.

Having squandered a lead against UAE, Japan left it late to put this one to bed, with the impressive Kawin Thamsatchanan beaten for a second time by Arsenal's Takuma Asano 15 minutes from time.

Thailand's disappointing evening got worse in the final few minutes, when substitute Prakit Deeprom was dismissed after picking up a second yellow.

Japan signalled its early intent when Keisuka Honda's header back across goal from a searching delivery was cleared away from under his own crossbar by Tanaboon Kesarat inside the opening 10 minutes.

A brilliant save from Thamsatchanan denied Asano soon after as Japan continued to threaten in the opening stages.

And the pressure finally told when Hertha Berlin's Haraguchi picked his spot with a well-taken header from the heart of the penalty area in the 17th minute.

Honda should quickly have made it 2-0, but the AC Milan midfielder failed to make contact with Asano's pass along the edge of the six-yard box.

The one-way traffic continued and Thamsatchanan made two excellent stops before half-time, both from the lively Honda.

Japan's profligacy was a theme of the second half, too, although Shinji Kagawa will have been relieved to see an offside flag raised after lifting his close-range shot over the bar.

Remarkably, the host could have snatched a late equaliser had Teerasil Dangda not shot straight at Shusaku Nishikawa after latching on to Chanathip Songkrasin's clever reverse pass.

It would have been incredibly harsh on Japan, whose next qualifier is at home to Iraq, while Thailand — who saw Deeprom sent off at the death following a couple of clumsy challenges — head to UAE next month.


Group A - China 0 Iran 0; Syria 0 South Korea 0

Group B - Iraq 1 (Mohannad Abdul-Raheem 18) Saudi Arabia 2 (Nawaf Al Abed 81-pen, 87-pen); Thailand 0 Japan 2 (Genki Haraguchi 17, Takuma Asano 75)

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