Lebanon stun South Korea 2-1 to keep alive World Cup qualifying hopes
Australia book passage to Asia second round with 1-0 win in Thailand
Iran thrash Indonesia 4-1 to book their place in 10-team second stage
Iraq beat Jordan 3-1 win to eliminate China
Lebanon stunned traditional regional powerhouses South Korea 2-1 in Beirut on Tuesday to boost their hopes of qualifying for the last stage of Asia’s 2014 World Cup qualifying.
Lebanon lost 6-0 to the Koreans in in September’s away fixture in the first game under new coach Theo Bucker, but the German has overseen a big improvement since then.
Central defender Ali Al Saadi put the Middle East side ahead after just five minutes, but the visitors leveled on 20 from the spot as Koo Ja-Cheol slotted home.
But the Wolfsburg midfielder blotted his copybook by tripping Mahmoud el Ali, and Abbas Atwi converted the winning penalty just after half an hour.
Lebanon now trail 2002 World Cup semifinalists South Korea only on goal difference, with Kuwait two points further back ahead of the final round of Group B matches after beating United Arab Emirates 2-1.
Australia booked passage to the second round of qualifying with an unconvincing 1-0 win in Thailand.
Blackburn’s Brett Emerton set up Brett Holman for his second-half headed winner as the Socceroos went through as Group D winners.
Saudi Arabia and Oman fought to a 0-0 draw and will battle it out with Thailand to decide the second qualifying place in the final round.
Iran also progressed with a game to spare, beating Indonesia 4-1 before a goalless draw in Doha between Qatar and Bahrain confirmed their qualification.
Bahrain must win against Indonesia in the concluding matches on February 29, while the Qataris need a point against Iran to go through.
Iraq ended China’s hopes of qualifying from Group A by beating leaders Jordan 3-1 to claim the second spot.
China had earlier won 4-0 against Singapore with a late Zheng Zheng double.
Japan had already gone through from Group C, but the Blue Samurai’s 20-match unbeaten run ended with a 1-0 defeat to bitter rivals North Korea in Pyongyang.
Pak Nam Chol’s 50th-minute header secured the victory, but in a bad-tempered game the home side had Jong Il Gwan sent off in the 77th minute.
“It was a physical match in a tough environment,” Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni told broadcaster TBS. Uzbekistan beat Tajikistan 3-0 to go three points clear at the top of the group.
The top two teams from each of five groups reach the final stage, where a round-robin is played to decide on four places for the 2014 finals in Brazil. The fifth-placed team go into an intercontinental playoff.
In the first round of Africa qualifying, Emmanuel Adebayor returned to international action as Togo beat Guinea-Bissau 1-0 to progress to the second stage after a first-leg draw.
The Tottenham striker had retired from representing his country after the January 2010 gun attack on the Togo team bus before the African Cup of Nations.
Serge Gakpe, who scored in the opening 1-1 draw, netted a second-minute winner for the Sparrowhawks.
The Democratic Republic of Congo also went through after beating Swaziland 5-1 to win 8-2 on aggregate, while Congo progressed 6-1 on aggregate despite being held 1-1 by Sao Tome e Principe.
Lesotho and Tanzania triumphed by virtue of the away-goals rule at the expense of Burundi and Chad respectively, despite both nations losing the second legs.
Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda and 2012 Africa Cup of Nations co-hosts Equatorial Guinea also made it to the second stage.