Tim Cahill came off the bench to give Australia a 1-0 win over the United Arab Emirates in the third round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup on Tuesday.
The 36-year-old midfielder drilled home a Brad Smith cross from close range with 10 minutes remaining in Abu Dhabi. The Socceroos made it two wins from two games to go top of Group B, ahead of Saudi Arabia on goal difference.
“We justifiably took the three points in difficult conditions,” said Australia coach Ange Postecoglou, referring to pre-match temperatures of almost 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). “It was a good performance.”
The top two teams in Groups A and B will qualify automatically for the World Cup, with the two third-place teams going to a fourth-round match to decide which of them makes the intercontinental playoffs.
IRAQ 1, SAUDI ARABIA 2
Nawaf Al Abid scored twice from the penalty spot in the last nine minutes to give Saudi Arabia six points from two matches.
Mohanad Abdulraheem scored early for Iraq, which also lost in Australia, and was still searching for a first point after two matches.
The game was held in Malaysia because of security issues in Iraq.
THAILAND 0, JAPAN 2
Japan successfully bounced back from its opening loss at home to the United Arab Emirates in Group B.
Genki Haraguchi headed the dominant visitors into a first-half lead, and striker Takuma Asano sealed the win in the second half.
“It was a very important victory,” Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic said. “But it wasn’t easy. I was worried a little bit about the mental condition of the team, but we just really threw ourselves into this game with the desire to win.”
Thailand coach Kiatisuk Senamuang was impressed with the visitors, predicting Japan would qualify for a sixth successive World Cup.
“We saw tonight that Japan is a strong team,” he said. “They are on the right track now. I really believe that they can win the rest of their group matches.”
CHINA 0, IRAN 0
China picked up its first point in Group A, holding Iran to a 0-0 draw in Shenyang.
China lost 3-2 to South Korea in Seoul in the opening Group A game last week.
SOUTH KOREA 0, SYRIA 0
The Group A game was also played in Malaysia due to the ongoing security situation in Syria.
South Korea dominated possession but was frustrated by a hard-working Syrian backline.
“This is not a satisfactory result for us,” said South Korea coach Uli Stielike, who also complained about Syrian time-wasting.
QATAR 0, UZBEKISTAN 1
At Doha, defender Egor Kremits’ 86th-minute header gave Uzbekistan its second consecutive win and moved it to the top of Group A, two points ahead of Iran and South Korea.
Kremits, who missed his team’s 1-0 win over Syria last Thursday because of a suspension, headed Alexander Geynrikh’s free kick from the right past Qatar goalkeeper Oumar Barry.
Qatar is in last place in the group after two losses to begin the third round.