RE­LIEF FOR AUS­TRALIA

Soc­ceroos end run of draws with vic­tory over UAE

New Straits Times - - Sport -

SYD­NEY

JACK­SON Irvine and Mathew Leckie headed home cor­ners as Aus­tralia got their World Cup qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign back on track with a 2-0 vic­tory over the United Arab Emi­rates yes­ter­day, end­ing a run of four suc­ces­sive draws.

Jack­son struck in the sev­enth minute and Leckie added the se­cond 12 min­utes from time to send the 27,328 fans at the Syd­ney Foot­ball Sta­dium home happy de­spite a far from con­vinc­ing dis­play from Ange Postecoglou’s side.

The win kept them in touch with the Group B lead­ers, Ja­pan and Saudi Ara­bia.

The top two from the group qual­ify di­rectly for next year’s fi­nals with the third-placed team of­fered an al­ter­na­tive route to Russia via two play­offs.

“It was just about re­main­ing calm and tak­ing our chances,” said Aus­tralia skip­per Mile Je­d­i­nak. “It re­ally helps our chances (of qual­i­fy­ing) but there’s plenty of busi­ness to be done.”

The UAE opened their cam­paign with a stun­ning win over Ja­pan in Saitama but a fourth loss since means they are now cling­ing to slim hopes of claim­ing third place.

Mean­while, Leicester City's Shinji Okazaki cel­e­brated his 50th in­ter­na­tional goal as Ja­pan brushed aside Thai­land 4-0 to edge closer to a sixth suc­ces­sive World Cup.

Shinji Ka­gawa gave the hosts the lead in their Asian Group B qual­i­fier with a sharp fin­ish af­ter eight min­utes, be­fore Okazaki thun­dered home a div­ing header to bring up his half-cen­tury in swash­buck­ling style.

Okazaki's land­mark strike, on his 108th Ja­pan ap­pear­ance, came on 19 min­utes in Saitama and ef­fec­tively killed the contest.

Yuya Kubo and Maya Yoshida added fur­ther goals for the Blue Sa­mu­rai af­ter the break, and Eiji Kawashima saved a late penalty from Krai­son Adisak to deny rock-bot­tom Thai­land a con­so­la­tion.

Ja­pan pro­vi­sion­ally took top spot with 16 points from seven games, but Saudi Ara­bia can move above them on goal dif­fer­ence with vic­tory over Iraq in Jed­dah in a late match yes­ter­day. Agen­cies

EPA PIC

Aus­tralia’s James Troisi (cen­tre) is chal­lenged by the United Arab Emi­rates’ Walid Ab­bas at the Syd­ney Foot­ball Sta­dium yes­ter­day.

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