Australia beats Saudis; Iraq and North Korea win

Australia beats Saudis; Iraq and North Korea win

Published Sep. 7, 2011 1:08 a.m. ET

Josh Kennedy scored either side of halftime as Australia beat Saudi Arabia 3-1 to take a full six points from its first two matches in Asian qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

The United Arab Emirates, meanwhile, fired coach Srecko Katanec of Slovenia after his team lost to Lebanon 3-1. And Asian powers Iran, Japan and South Korea saw their campaigns falter as Iran drew with Qatar 1-1, Japan was held to 1-1 at Uzbekistan and South Korea drew 1-1 with Kuwait.

Kennedy, who scored a late goal as Australia rallied for a 2-1 win over Thailand in its first Group D match last week, scored in the 40th and 56th minutes before Nasser Al Shamrani pulled one back for the Saudis.

Luke Wilkshire's penalty in the 77th restored the two-goal buffer.


Jordan is the only other team with two wins in the third round of Asian qualifying, the first to feature the continent's top five ranked teams, after adding to a 2-1 victory over China to its upset win over Iraq last week in Group A.

South Korea was held to a 1-1 draw at Kuwait , with

In Group B, Kuwait defender Hussain Fadel's 53rd-minute equalizer canceled out Park Chu-young's goal for South Korea in the eighth minute. Park scored a hat-trick in South Korea's opening 6-0 win over Lebanon.

Lebanon left the United Arab Emirates' World Cup hopes in tatters after it defeated the Gulf team 3-1.

Elsewhere, Iraq got its campaign back on track with a 2-0 away win at Singapore on Tuesday, as did North Korea with a 1-0 home victory over Tajikistan and Thailand with a 3-0 win against Oman.

Iraq, coached by former Brazil great Zico, suffered an upset home defeat by Jordan on the opening match day last Friday, but made up for that with a much-needed win at Singapore.

With its expectations high since winning the 2007 Asian Cup, Iraq could have been deflated by the disappointing defeat by Jordan - but produced a good performance on the second match day in the penultimate group stage.

The Iraqis controlled play throughout the game, missing several close-range chances in the first half. It kept the pressure on at the start of the second half and broke through in the 50th minute when striker Alaa Abdul-Zahra headed home.

Captain Younis Mahmoud sealed the visitor's win with a second goal in the 86th minute.

Iraq has three points from two games, while Singapore - which lost 2-1 at China on Friday - has no points.

North Korea also took its first points of the campaign by defeating Tajikistan in Pyongyang. North Korea, which qualified for the 2010 World Cup, had been cruelly denied an impressive away draw at Japan in its opening game, conceding the sole goal deep into stoppage time.

North Korea's winner came from Pak Nam Chol in the 14th minute and the hosts then used their trademark strong defense to maintain the advantage.

The win gave North Korea three points from two games, while Tajikistan - which only advanced to this stage after Syria was disqualified for fielding an ineligible player in the previous round - has lost both its games.

Thailand was another team eager to make up for defeat on the opening day - when it came up empty-handed despite an impressive defensive performance at Australia - and maintained that good form by beating Oman convincingly.

The biggest hurdle Thailand faced was visiting goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi of Premier League club Wigan, but Sompong Soleb beat him in the 35th minute, and striker Teerasil Dangda doubled the advantage in the 41st.

Oman, coached by Paul LeGuen, could not cut the deficit and an own-goal in stoppage time by Rashid al Farsi completed the scoring.

Thailand has three points from two games while Oman - which drew 0-0 at home with Saudi Arabia in its opening game - has one.

Bahrain, coached by former England under-21 and Leicester manager Peter Taylor, had a solid win at Indonesia.

Teenage midfielder Sayed Dhiya Saeed put the visitors ahead just before halftime and Ismaeel Abdullatif netted the second goal in the 71st.

Having been held to a scoreless home draw by Qatar in its opening game, Bahrain has four points from two games in Group E and its early form suggests the potential repeat of the previous World Cup campaign when the small Gulf nation went all the way to the intercontinental playoff against New Zealand before missing out on the last spot in South Africa.