China stay alive as Australia, Japan march on in Asian qualifiers for 2018 World Cup
Jiang Ning’s hat-trick gives Chinese faint hope of reaching third round, while Leicester star Okazaki rescues Samurai Blue and Australia thrash Tajiks in 7-0 drubbing
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.
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.
Jiang settled any Chinese nerves in Wuhan when he struck in just the third minute, before the lead was quickly doubled by Yang Xu in the 12th.
Jiang’s goals in the 84th minute and injury time added gloss for China, who nevertheless look out of the running for the next round ahead of Tuesday’s group C finale against unbeaten Qatar.
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.
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.