Japan held by Uzbekistan

[WORLD CUP 2010 QUALIFYING] The third round of games in Asia's final qualifying phase saw expected home wins for both Australia and South Korea, and a narrow victory for Iran over North Korea. Japan, meanwhile, was surprisingly held by Uzbekistan.
 
GROUP ONE
Tim Cahill made an immediate impact for Australia when he returned for his first national team game in eight months fort the Socceroos' 4-0 win over Qatar in front of a crowd of 34,000 in Brisbane. The Everton midfielder scored after just nine minutes, to make his international tally 14 in 29 caps, and then was fouled eight minutes later in the penalty box. Blackburn Rovers forward Brett Emerton converted the resultant spot-kick before adding a personal second just before the hour to make it 3-0. Karslruhe striker Josh Kennedy scored a fourth when he converted with his head 14 minutes from time, taking Australia to the top of Group One with maximum points.
 
Australian coach Pim Verbeek said his side did a "fantastic job," but warned "there are six games and 18 points to go. Bahrain away is the next game. I am not the one who is running around with a bottle of champagne in my hand because we have six points."
 
Still, his mood would have been made no worse with news of the result from Saitama, where Japan could only tie with visiting Uzbekistan, 1-1. The Uzbeks, without a point from their first two games, took a surprising lead through Maksim Shatskikh after 26 minutes. Although Japan leveled five minutes before half-time thanks to a scrambled goal from Keiji Tamada, it couldn't find a winner.
 
"Uzbekistan were desperate after losing two games earlier and they were aggressive," said Japan's coach Takeshi Okada. "I was very disappointed because we needed a win, but my players did very well to score a goal." Japan has four points from its first two games, and jumped ahead of Qatar (who've played three) on goal difference into second place behind Australia.
 
RESULTS
Australia 4 (Cahill, Emerton 2, 1 PK, Kennedy) Qatar 0
Japan 1 (Tamada) Uzbekistan 1 (Maksim)
Standings: Australia (6 points), Japan (4), Qatar (4), Bahrain (1), Uzbekistan (1)
 
GROUP TWO
Iran won the match of the round with a narrow 2-1 win in Tehran over North Korea. Its captain, Mehdi Mahdavikia, opened the scoring after 10 minutes, and Iran looked safe when it added a second through Javad Nekounam just after the hour following an error from North Korean goalkeeper Ry Myong Guk. Jong Tae Se pulled a goal back for the visitors seven minutes later with a header to set up a nervy final 20 minutes, but Iran held on thanks to a fine save from Seyed Rahmati on a shot from Mun In Guk.
 
South Korea posted a convincing 4-1 win over bottom-placed United Arab Emirates in Seoul, with Lee Keun-Ho netting twice. Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-Sung and forward Kwak Tae-Hee were the other goal scorers.
 
Lee's first goal was a deflected effort on the counter-attack after 20 minutes, while six minutes later Park pounced on a defensive error to smack in the second and make it 2-0 at the interval. UAE substitute Ismail Al Hammadi pulled one back in the 71st minute, but Lee scored his second nine minutes later with a clinical finish before Kwak finished things off. The UAE has now lost all three of its matches and is in poor shape to qualify for South Africa.
 
"The players found holes in the UAE defense and took advantage," said South Korea's coach Huh Jung Moo. "But we've just cleared one obstacle. We'll be prepared for the away match at Saudi Arabia next month."
 
RESULTS
South Korea 4  (Lee 2, Park, Kwak) United Arab Emirates 0
Iran 2 (Mahdavikia, Nekounam) North Korea 1 (Jong)
Standings: South Korea (4 points), Iran (4), Saudi Arabia (4), North Korea (4), United Arab Emirates (0).
 
Format: The top two teams from each group will qualify directly for South Africa 2010. The third-placed teams from each group will play a home-and-away playoff, with the winner advancing to the inter-confederation play-off with Oceania winners New Zealand.

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