Australia earns draw against Japan

Luke Wilkshire’s 70th-minute penalty allowed 10-man Australia to salvage a 1-1 draw against Japan on Tuesday in a battle of the Asian heavyweights in World Cup qualifying.

Australia played a man down after substitute Mark Milligan picked up his second booking in the 55th minute, and Japan capitalized 10 minutes later when Keisuke Honda dribbled along the byline and crossed perfectly across the face of goal for Yuzo Kurihara to tap in.

Wilkshire equalized five minutes later after Saudi referee Khalil Al Ghamdi awarded a contentious penalty against Atsuto Uchida for pulling back Alex Brosque on the goal line as Australia took a corner.

Australia came close to snatching a win: veteran center back Sasa Ognenovski hit the bar with an angled shot in the 77th minute and Luke Wilkshire’s curling free kick in the last minute of regulation time was well saved by Eiji Kawashima.

That free kick was awarded when Kurihara was sent off, collecting his second yellow card for bundling Brosque to the ground in an off-the-ball incident. That ended an eventful night for Kurihara, who as well as scoring his team’s goal, also denied Australia a goal in the 20th minute, blocking a shot on the line when it appeared certain the hosts would score.

The drama went right to the wire, when Honda was lining up a free kick only for Ghamdi to decide he was taking too long to take the shot and blew the whistle for full time, to the besument of Japan’s players and the bench.

That capped a series of surprising refereeing decisions that raised the ire of both teams. Milligan collected his second yellow card when he was trying to volley a shot at goal when a Japan defender threw himself in front of the ball and took the kick to his body.

Japan’s midfield, marshalled by Makoto Hasebe and with soon-to-be Manchester United signing Shinji Kagawa making penetrating runs, controlled much of the possession, yet Australia came closest to scoring in the first half. Aside from the shot blocked by Kurihara, Kawashima was forced into a double save in the sixth minute when he blocked goal-bound shots from Tim Cahill and Wilkshire.

Both teams were happy to go away with a point. Japan, which scored nine goals in its opening two wins at home, leads Group B with seven points. Australia has two points from a scoreless draw at Oman last Friday and the home draw in Brisbane.

South Korea made it two wins from two at the top of Group A with a 3-0 home win over Lebanon in Goyang.

Kim Bo-kyung scored in the 30th and 48th minutes to put the hosts in control before Koo Ja-cheol rounded off a comprehensive victory in the 90th minute.

Lebanon are bottom of the pool with one point from three games.