Luke Wilkshire’s 70th-minute penalty allowed 10-man Australia to salvage a 1-1 draw against Japan yesterday in a battle of the Asian heavyweights in FIFA 2014 World Cup qualifying.
Australia played a man down after substitute Mark Milligan picked up his second booking in the 55th minute and Japan capitalized 10 minutes later when Keisuke Honda dribbled along the byline and crossed perfectly across the face of goal for Yuzo Kurihara to tap in.
Wilkshire equalized five minutes later after Saudi referee Khalil al-Ghamdi awarded a contentious penalty against Atsuto Uchida for pulling back Alex Brosque on the goal-line as Australia took a corner.
Australia came close to snatching a win when veteran centerback Sasa Ognenovski hit the bar with an angled shot in the 77th minute and Luke Wilkshire’s curling free-kick in the last minute of regulation time was well saved by Eiji Kawashima.
That free-kick was awarded when Kurihara was sent off, collecting his second yellow card for bundling Brosque to the ground in an off-the-ball incident. That ended an eventful night for Kurihara, who as well as scoring his team’s goal, also denied Australia a goal in the 20th minute, blocking a shot on the line when it appeared certain the hosts would score.
The drama went right to the wire, when Honda was lining up a free-kick, only for al-Ghamdi to decide he was taking too long to take the shot and blew the whistle for full time, to the bemusement of Japan’s players and their bench.
That capped a series of surprising refereeing decisions that raised the ire of both teams.
Milligan collected his second yellow card when he was trying to volley a shot at goal and a Japan defender threw himself in front of the ball, taking a kick to his body.
Japan’s midfield, marshaled by Makoto Hasebe and with soon-to-be Manchester United signing Shinji Kagawa making penetrating runs, controlled much of the possession, yet Australia came closest to scoring in the first half. Aside from the shot blocked by Kurihara, Kawashima was forced into a double save when he blocked shots from Tim Cahill and Wilkshire.
Japan lead Group B with seven points. Australia have two points from a scoreless draw in Oman on Friday and the draw yesterday.
S KOREA 3, LEBANON 0
Midfielder Kim Bo-kyung scored twice as South Korea strolled to a 3-0 victory over Lebanon in Goyang, South Korea, yesterday to make it two wins from two in the fourth round of qualifiers.
South Korea are top of Group A after their victory over Lebanon.
Lebanon had stunned South Korea 2-1 in Beirut in the previous round, but there was no repeat on the cards yesterday as the visitors struggled to get the ball, let alone create chances.
The two-time Asian champions opened the scoring in the 30th minute when Kim’s long-range effort found its way past visiting goalkeeper Ziad El Samad.
South Korea played with little urgency and had to wait until early in the second half to extend their lead. From a Lebanon corner, South Korea broke away and Kim was left in space to run through and slot home left-footed in the 47th minute.
Substitute Koo Ja-cheol wrapped up the scoring a minute before the final whistle. Koo dispossessed midfielder Hussein Dakik, before unleashing a powerful drive.