Australia win, Japan toil in World Cup
Updated: 2011-09-07 14:11
Australia's Joshua Kennedy (R) and Brett Holman celebrate a goal against Saudi Arabia during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Damman Sept 6, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]
RIYADH - Australia overcame heat and jetlag to ease past Saudi Arabia 3-1 while Japan looked jaded during a 1-1 draw with Uzbekistan in the third round of Asian qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup on Tuesday.
Australia's patchy 2-1 victory over Thailand last week was unconvincing but at Dammam two goals by Josh Kennedy and a penalty from Luke Wilkshire lifted the Socceroos to the top of Group D.
Kennedy opened his account against the Thais and on Tuesday he was at it again, heading a Wilkshire cross into the net just before halftime.
The Japan-based striker added a second goal on 56 minutes after cashing in on Brett Holman's defence-splitting pass.
The hosts pulled a goal back through Nassir Al Shamrani but Kennedy was then fouled in the box and Wilkshire converted his penalty in the 77th minute.
Saudi Arabia's Osama Hawsaawi (L) fights for the ball with Australia's Mile Jedinak during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Damman Sept 6, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]
By contrast, Japan's away-match experience was all about toiling for a draw.
Uzbekistan wasted a string of chances against a weary-looking Japan side yet to taste defeat in 13 games since Italian Alberto Zaccheroni took charge in October.
Captain Server Djeparov volleyed Uzbekistan into the lead after eight minutes, celebrating with a triple back flip as the home fans lit flares and roared with delight.
Shinji Okazaki's diving header gave Japan a barely-deserved equaliser in the 65th minute, triggering something of a shootout as both teams suddenly threw caution to the wind.
"Uzbekistan pushed us around a bit," Zaccheroni told reporters. "Give them credit, they are a very good side. We were better in the second half but we must play better than that."
Japan still top Group C on four points, ahead of Uzbekistan on goal difference.
DPR Korea, unlucky 1-0 losers in Japan on Friday, scraped past Tajikistan 1-0 in Pyongyang to go third in the group.