Football: China stay alive as Australia, Japan march on

A Jiang Ning hat-trick kept China's faint World Cup hopes alive as big guns Australia and Japan blasted towards Russia 2018 with convincing wins on Thursday.

Jiang, who plays at Hebei China Fortune alongside Ezequiel Lavezzi and Gervinho, powered China to a 4-0 home victory as they chase Group C's second spot in the penultimate round of games.

China's cause was helped by Qatar, who beat Hong Kong 2-0 at home with goals from Hassan Khalid and Sebastian Soria.

Hong Kong have thus bowed out of contention having finished their group engagements while China, who have a match on hand, can hope to become one of the four best second-placed teams and make the final qualifying round

Qatar have already made the third phase of qualifying with an all-win record from seven matches.

Earlier, Australia had little trouble beating Tajikistan 7-0, with Nathan Burns and Tom Rogic both scoring twice, while Leicester City's Shinji Okazaki sparked Japan's 5-0 win over Afghanistan.

Lee Jeong-Hyeop spared already-qualified South Korea's blushes with an injury-time winner as the hosts laboured to a 1-0 victory over Lebanon in Ansan.

And former Tottenham Hotspur coach Harry Redknapp's interim stint with Jordan got off to a flying start with an 8-0 win against an outclassed Bangladesh in Amman.

In Adelaide, Queens Park Rangers midfielder Massimo Luongo set Australia on their way to what was the Asian champions' biggest win under coach Ange Postecoglou.

Luongo struck with just two minutes on the clock before Australian skipper Mile Jedinak of Crystal Palace added a penalty to put the hosts 2-0 up.

Another penalty by substitute Mark Milligan and second-half doubles from Burns and Rogic completed a comfortable outing for Australia, who now go into a top-of-the-table clash with Redknapp's Jordan.

"These games can become difficult, we knew they would sit off (in defence) but having such a quick start and scoring the goal it was just a matter of time before they capitulated," Postecoglou said.

Redknapp went one better than his Australian opposite number as Jordan put eight past Bangladesh, propelled by a first-half hat-trick from Hamza Al Dardour.

Meanwhile Japan needed Okazaki, one of the men behind Leicester's inspirational English Premier League season, to shake them out of their torpor after a sluggish start in Saitama.

Okazaki handed Japan a barely deserved lead two minutes before half-time before Hiroshi Kiyotake, Maya Yoshida and Mu Kanazaki joined him on the scoresheet, along with an Afghan own goal.

Japan, however, still face a challenge to finish on top in Group E after Syria thrashed Cambodia 6-0 with Omar Khirbin and Andulrazaq al-Hussain scoring two goals apiece.

The win took Syria to 18 points from seven matches, just one point behind Japan and their clash next Tuesday will decide who tops the group.

In Group F, two goals from Mongkol Tossakai helped Thailand hold Iraq 2-2 and qualify for the final phase with 14 points from six matches.

Iraq have only nine points from five matches and will have to win their last group match to maintain their slim chances as one of the four best second-placed teams.

Uzbekistan pipped the Philippines 1-0 to boost their chances of winning Group H. They now have 18 points from seven matches, while North Korea are second with 16 from seven.

In Group A, Saudi Arabia all but wrapped up top spot with a 2-0 win over Malaysia to take their tally to 19 points from seven matches.

The UAE, who defeated Palestine 2-0, have 16 points from seven and still have a slim mathematical chance to finish first if they win their last group game against the Saudis by a big margin and finish with a better goal difference.

Iran continued to top Group D after thrashing India 4-0, while Oman defeated Guam 1-0 to stay second.

Eight group winners and the four best-performing second-placed teams will reach the third round of World Cup qualifying, and seal a spot at the 2019 Asian Cup into the bargain.


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