Australia remain in pole position to win Group B in 2018 Asia World Cup qualifying after thrashing Tajikistan 7-0 at the Adelaide Oval on Thursday, a day when Thailand, Japan and Saudi Arabia progressed to Round 3.
Massimo Luongo and Mile Jedinak netted inside the opening 13 minutes, and doubles from Nathan Burns and Tom Rogic, along with a Mark Milligan penalty, after half-time made for an emphatic and comfortable day's work ahead of a potentially key clash with Harry Redknapp's Jordan on Tuesday.
Japan also had an easy win in Group E—they prevailed 5-0 over Afghanistan—while Korea Republic edged out Lebanon 1-0. But the Japanese will have taken notice of Syria smashing six past Cambodia, a result that means the the top spot in the group is far from secure.
Meanwhile, Qatar maintained their perfect start to the qualifying campaign after comfortably seeing off Hong Kong 2-0. Iran are showing similar dominance in Group D, dominance proved by scoring a quartet of goals to beat India.
Read on for the results and a full recap of Thursday's action in World Cup 2018 qualifying, along with the updated group standings.
|Asia World Cup 2018 Qulaifying: Thursday Results|
|Australia vs. Tajikistan||7-0|
|Japan vs. Afghanistan||5-0|
|Korea Republic vs. Lebanon||1-0|
|China PR vs. Maldives||4-0|
|Vietnam vs. Chinese Taipei||4-1|
|Jordan vs. Bangladesh||8-0|
|Uzbekistan vs. Philippines||1-0|
|Iraq vs. Thailand||2-2|
|Iran vs. India||4-0|
|Oman vs. Guam||1-0|
|UAE vs. Palestine||2-0|
|Bahrain vs. Yemen||3-0|
|Syria vs. Cambodia||6-0|
|Qatar vs. Hong Kong||2-0|
|Saudi Arabia vs. Malaysia||2-0|
Luongo put the hosts ahead inside two minutes, his low, fizzing drive beating veteran Alisher Tuychiev in the Tajikistan goal after a neat layoff from debutant Apostolos Giannou.
Giannou was involved again as he burst into the area at pace before being taken out by Tuychiev to win a penalty, with the stopper somehow avoiding a red card.
Skipper Jedinak stepped up and converted the spot-kick with aplomb, sending Tuychiev the wrong way to establish a two-goal cushion.
It was the ideal start for manager Ange Postecoglou, and he could have seen his side go further ahead before the break, but Mathew Leckie, Aaron Mooy, Trent Sainsbury, Jedinak and Giannou all spurned chances.
It was one-way traffic, though, and the third goal did finally come just before the hour when Giannou won another penalty, which was duly converted by Milligan despite the goalkeeper diving the right way.
After a string of misses, Burns then got on the scoresheet 10 minutes later following wonderful work from Mooy, per the Football Sack:
The Football Sack @TheFootballSack
66' Mooy in the mood to take on everybody. He fights his way to the byline and bends in a great cross. Burns taps it home #AUSvTJK2016-3-24 10:25:53
Substitute Rogic netted the fifth with 20 minutes remaining before scoring his second of the night just two minutes later with a brilliant strike.
The Celtic man received the ball from Giannou on the edge of the box before stretching and clipping a curling finish home with the outside of his left boot.
Another ferocious volley almost gave Rogic a rapid hat-trick, but it was Burns who put the icing on the cake, heading home his second from a Ryan McGowan cross with three of the 90 minutes remaining.
It was the simplest of wins for Australia, and they could have scored more. Now, a point against Jordan will guarantee them top spot in the group and a place in the next round of qualifying.
But the Middle East side should not be underestimated after they beat Bangladesh 8-0—Hamza Al-Dardour scored a hat-trick—in Redknapp's first game in charge, per FIFA World Cup:
FIFA World Cup @FIFAWorldCup
FT Jordan 8-0 Bangladesh It's a great eight for Harry @Redknapp in 1st #WCQ match https://t.co/7ipu8YacyR https://t.co/IfClATnrVA2016-3-24 14:21:52
Another team earning plaudits is Qatar. Skipper Hassan Khalid Al Haidos sent them on their way to another victory over Hong Kong after just 20 minutes. Andres Quintana later produced a controlled finish to deftly turn in a neat cross with just a minute left to cap the scoring.
Manager Jose Daniel Carreno's side are playing with orderly discipline at the back and in midfield. But his players also have the happy knack of manufacturing scoring chances and taking them with ruthless efficiency, qualities that surely make Group C theirs.
Another group lacking in suspense is Group D after leaders Iran recorded another emphatic win. Ehsan Haji Safi tucked away a pair of penalties to help send his nation on its way against India in Tehran.
Things also look good for Thailand who made it through to Round 3 after fighting to a thrilling draw with Iraq. The FIFA World Cup Instagram page provided details:
Leicester City's Shinji Okazaki opened the scoring just before half-time for Japan in Saitama. Second-half goals then came from Hiroshi Kiyotake, Maya Yoshida and Mu Kanazaki, while an Afghanistan own goal added to the margin of victory.
But Syria were even more impressive in the way they destroyed Cambodia. Braces from Omar Kharbin and Abdulrazak Al Hussein formed the foundation of the eye-catching scoreline at the Seeb Stadium.
Meanwhile, there was late drama for South Korea, as Lee Jeong-hyeop scored in the third minute of stoppage time to claim all three points against Lebanon. The free-scoring nation has the goals to make equally light work of Round 3.
The day's games ended with Mohammed Al Sahlawi and Taisir Al-Jassim both finding the net to see off Malaysia and ensure safe passage from Group A.