10-man Aussies hold Japan, Koreans cruise
Ten-man Australia held free-flowing Japan to a 1-1 draw in World Cup qualifying Tuesday, as South Korea marched towards Brazil 2014 with a 3-0 hammering of Lebanon.
In a Brisbane replay of last year's Asian Cup final, won by Japan, the Blue Samurai went ahead when dangerman Keisuke Honda carved open the defence for Yuzo Kurihara's simple finish on 65 minutes.
But Australia, who had lost substitute Mark Milligan to a second yellow card early in the second half, levelled with a coolly taken Luke Wilkshire penalty, after Alex Brosque was impeded inside the box.
It provided a dramatic finish to an enthralling game between Asia's two top-ranked sides -- and Sasa Ognenovski nearly snatched it for the hosts when he rattled the bar in the closing stages.
Japan, spearheaded by Honda and Manchester United recruit-to-be Shinji Kagawa, had totted up nine goals in their opening wins against Oman and Jordan in an impressive start to their bid for a fifth straight World Cup finals.
And luck looked on the side of Asian champions when Mark Bresciano went off with an early hip injury and his replacement, Milligan, was given his marching orders for fouls on Honda and then Atsuto Uchida.
They went ahead through a typically incisive goal created by Honda, who cut back from the right byline to the unmarked Kurihara, who made no mistake from close range.
But just five minutes later, Uchida was carded for pulling Brosque as an Australian corner came in, and Dynamo Moscow's Wilkshire made no mistake in front of 40,000 fans at Brisbane Stadium.
"What my team delivered tonight was unbelievable, it is hard to describe how they fought their way through a lot of adversity, all credit to them," Australia coach Holger Osieck said.
"I think we demonstrated pretty clearly today that we can do a lot in the group and Japan already have seven points, but we will get our points and it sends a message not only to Japan but to the other teams as well."
Japan also finished a man down as goal-scorer Kurihara received a second yellow for bringing down Tim Cahill. And the visitors were aggrieved when the referee blew full-time as they lined up a long-range free-kick.
"We came here happy for a draw but after what happened on the field we could have won it," said Japan's Italian coach, Alberto Zaccheroni.
"For most of the game we pressured them well. Australia had to win this game. They have experience, physical strength and had savvy on this bad pitch but my players never got pushed around."
Japan remain top of Group B with seven points from three games -- including a 6-0 spree against Jordan -- while Australia have two points from two matches after their drab 0-0 away draw against Oman on Friday.
In Goyang, west of Seoul, winger Kim Bo-Kyung broke his international duck with a classy brace as South Korea thrashed Lebanon to move towards their eighth consecutive World Cup finals.
The Cerezo Osaka left-footer grabbed his first two goals in 14 senior internationals, and Koo Ja-Cheol added a late third as the 2002 World Cup semi-finalists made it two wins in a row to start the last qualifying phase.
With the visitors seemingly content to sit back, South Korea were unable to penetrate until Kim opened the scoring with a rocket from just inside the box in the 29th minute.
Kim took a sharp cross from Lee Keun-Ho and put a thunderous strike past goalkeeper Ziad El-Samad off the bottom of the crossbar.
Just after half-time Kim was released near the centre after a botched Lebanese corner, and he drove in on El-Samad before chipping it over the advancing keeper.
And the winger nearly picked up a hat-trick when he fired narrowly wide of the right post near the hour-mark. FC Augsburg's Koo then pounced on a defensive error to lash home the third goal on 89 minutes.
The Taeguk Warriors are provisionally top of Group A. The top two sides in both of the five-team groups qualify automatically for Brazil 2014, while the third-placed teams go into the play-offs.
Iran play Qatar and Iraq face Oman in Tuesday's later games.
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