Lebanon stun SKorea, Australia go through
Lebanon stunned South Korea 2-1 on Tuesday as Australia scrambled into the last stage of Asia's 2014 World Cup qualifying with a narrow victory over Thailand.
Iran thumped Indonesia 4-1 and were assured of their place in the next round when Bahrain could only draw with Qatar, while China's flickering hopes were finally extinguished and North Korea upset Japan in a spiteful match loaded with political tensions.
Lebanon had been smashed 6-0 by South Korea, ranked 115 places higher, in September but they seized the initiative in Beirut when Ali Al Saadi pounced on a loose ball from a free-kick in just the fourth minute of the match.
South Korea levelled through a Koo Ja-Cheol penalty but Abbas Ali Atwi's spot-kick 10 minutes later was to prove decisive.
The teams are now level on points at the top of Group B, but Kuwait's come from behind 2-1 win at home over UAE later on Tuesday kept alive the Kuwaitis hopes of preventing one of the top two of progressing to the next stage of qualifying.
In Bangkok, Brett Holman's second-half header was enough to give Australia a scrappy win and take them through with 12 points from five games, joining already qualified Japan, Jordan and Uzbekistan.
But it was far from the majestic procession earlier promised by Australia, who won their first three games -- including a last-gasp home victory over Thailand -- but came badly unstuck with Friday's 0-1 shock against Oman.
A near-capacity crowd at Supachalasai National Stadium, used instead of the normal Rajamangala venue which is occupied by refugees from Bangkok's crippling floods, provided vocal support as Thailand shaded the first half.
But with 15 minutes to go, a cross from former Blackburn man Brett Emerton on the right found Holman unmarked six yards out and he made no mistake with the header.
It was a different story in Jakarta as goals from Milad Meydavoodi, Mojtaba Jabbari and Gholamreza Rezaei put Iran out of sight within 25 minutes. Javad Nekounam wrapped it up with a 73rd minute penalty.
Iran's place in the next phase was assured later on Tuesday when Bahrain failed to beat Qatar as they fought out a drab 0-0 draw.
China's faint hopes of reaching the next phase were briefly given a boost after they thrashed hapless Singapore 4-0 and when Iraq trailed Jordan 1-0 at half-time in Amman.
However, two goals from Nashat Akram inspired the 2007 Asian Cup champions to a 3-1 victory over the Jordanians, inflicting their hosts first defeat of the group stage and ensuring the Iraqis progressed to the next stage.
In Pyongyang, North Korea defiantly downed bitter rivals Japan with the only goal of a game which yielded nine yellow cards and one sending-off in an electric atmosphere at Kim Il Sung Stadium.
Pak Nam Chol's 50th-minute header avenged North Korea's September defeat in Tokyo and sparked delirious scenes from the packed crowd, which had roundly booed the former colonialists' national anthem.
But North Korea's first qualifying win came too late to save their campaign, which was killed off last week by Uzbekistan, while Asian champions Japan were already through to the last round with 10 points from their first three games.
And the match was a bad-tempered affair with Bahraini referee Nawaf Shukralla showing eight yellow cards to North Korean players including two for Jong Il Gwan, who was dismissed for his second caution on 77 minutes.
Near the hour-mark, tensions had threatened to boil over when both sides squared up for a tense argument, although there was no violence.
"It was a physical match in a tough environment," Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni told Japanese broadcaster TBS.
"I suppose our opponents were also feeling pressure for this match against Japan. Their spirit might have showed in the number of yellow cards they received," he said.
The top two teams from each of five groups reach the final stage, a round-robin where four tickets to Brazil are up for grabs along with a shot at an intercontinental play-off.
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