South Korea’s Kim Chi-woo struck seven minutes into stoppage-time to salvage a 1-1 draw away to bottom side Lebanon in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday that put his relieved side top of Group A.
Kim’s free-kick was deflected off the defensive wall into the net after Hassan Maatouk’s 12th minute strike had put the unfancied hosts ahead in Beirut.
Maatouk raised Lebanon’s hopes of pulling off an upset win when he slotted Mohamad Haidar’s cross into the bottom left-hand corner of the South Korean goal.
The stunned Koreans went on the attack, but Lee Chung-yong hit the post after combining well with Lee Dong-gook.
The visitors mounted several raids, but Lebanese goalkeeper Abbas Hassan thwarted them time and again to preserve the hosts’ lead at half-time.
After the break South Korea’s forwards spurned a number of chances, but deep into stoppage-time found a fortunate equalizer when Kim’s left-foot free-kick was deflected into the net.
OMAN VERSUS IRAQ
Oman brightened their prospects of a maiden World Cup finals appearance with a 1-0 win over Iraq in a qualifier in Muscat on Tuesday.
Ismail al-Ajmi headed in a corner on the stroke of half-time and Oman’s tight defense denied Iraq a goal in the second half to keep them at the bottom of Group B with five points from six matches.
Oman pocketed three points, much to the delight of their fans at Muscat’s Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, to jump to second position in the group with one more match to play against Jordan.
Asian champions Japan, who earlier on Tuesday became the first side to qualify for next year’s finals in Brazil, lead the group with 14 points, followed by Oman on nine.
Australia moved above Jordan on goal difference with both sides on seven points and having played one game fewer. The top two teams from the group qualify directly for the finals.
On a hot and humid day in Muscat that necessitated occasional drinks breaks for the players, both goalkeepers had a quiet first 30 minutes as neither Oman nor Iraq could create scoring opportunities.
Iraq finally managed to put together a couple of attacks, but neither yielded the elusive goal.
Ali Adnan’s clumsy effort from the touchline sailed over the bar, while captain Younis Mahmoud got a long pass inside the box but could not dodge past the only defender between him and the goalkeeper.
Oman woke up after the half-hour mark, but striker Abdul Aziz Mubarak’s spectacular overhead kick from 16m sailed over the bar.
Iraq stepped up their attack too and an unmarked Alaa Abdul Zahra got a long cross inside the box but Raed Saleh, who shone in the Oman defence, cleared the ball.
Before they could catch their breath, Oman’s defence was shaken by Saif Salman’s effort from 25 metres which narrowly missed the target.
IRAN VERSUS QATAR
Iran put their World Cup qualifying campaign back on track after Reza Ghoochannejhad’s 66th-minute strike powered them to a 1-0 away win over Qatar on Tuesday.
Carlos Quiroz’s team pocketed three points from the match at Doha’s al-Sadd Stadium to sit third in Group A on 10 points, a point behind second-placed Uzbekistan and leaders South Korea.
The defeat has all but ended Qatar’s hopes of a first World Cup finals appearance as they lie a further three points behind with one game to play — an away match against Uzbekistan.
Although the teams got off to a lively start in Doha, there was little goalmouth action with Mojtaba Jabari’s 21st-minute effort from the edge of the Qatar box presenting the first goalkeeping test.
The hosts created their first opportunity when Ibrahim Khalfan sent the ball rolling into the path of Hasan al-Haydos who beat the goalkeeper, but not the crossbar.
Qatar goalkeeper Qasem Burhan then made two outstanding saves, tipping Masoud Soleimani Shojaei’s curling free-kick over the bar and keeping out Ghoochannejhad’s point-blank header while he was moving in the other direction.