Son spurs Laos rout; Hong Kong hold China
By Patrick Johnston
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - South Korea smashed eight past lowly Laos and Asian champions Australia battered Bangladesh 5-0 as the continent's elite made light work of the region's plucky outsiders in World Cup qualifying on Thursday.
Japan again looked disjointed in attack but still had far too much quality for an outclassed Cambodia in a 3-0 victory in Saitama, while former Asian champions Iraq kicked off their Group F campaign by downing Taiwan 5-1 in Tehran.
Only Hong Kong bucked the trend, holding big brothers China to a surprise goalless draw in a politically charged encounter in Shenzhen, played out in front of a heavy police presence, to stay top and unbeaten after three games in Group C.
Hong Kong are part of a group of weaker nations that have taken advantage of the revamp of Asian qualifying that has thrown them in with the continent's classiest following a plea for more matches.
They along with Guam, Palestine and Singapore had taken surprise group leads after two rounds across the eight pools but Thursday's early results showed most are unlikely to be there when the second round concludes in March.
New Tottenham Hotspur signing Son Heung-min struck a hat-trick as perennial qualifiers South Korea claimed the biggest win of the night, 8-0 over Laos.
"After just 15 minutes, the match was pretty much in our hands," Korean coach Uli Stielike was quoted as saying by Yonhap News.
"But our players competed hard until the end, and I think we're becoming a better team with each passing day." Continued...