RELIEF FOR AUSTRALIA
Socceroos end run of draws with victory over UAE
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
Australia’s James Troisi (centre) is challenged by the United Arab Emirates’ Walid Abbas at the Sydney Football Stadium yesterday.