RIYADH - Australia overcame heat and jetlag to ease past Saudi Arabia 3-1 while Japan looked jaded during a 1-1 draw with Uzbekistan in the third round of Asian qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup on Tuesday.
Australia's patchy 2-1 victory over Thailand last week was unconvincing but at Dammam two goals by Josh Kennedy and a penalty from Luke Wilkshire lifted the Socceroos to the top of Group D.
Kennedy opened his account against the Thais and on Tuesday he was at it again, heading a Wilkshire cross into the net just before half-time.
The Japan-based striker added a second goal on 56 minutes after cashing in on Brett Holman's defence-splitting pass.
The hosts pulled a goal back through Nassir Al Shamrani but Kennedy was then fouled in the box and Wilkshire converted his penalty in the 77th minute.
By contrast, Japan's away-match experience was all about toiling for a draw.
Uzbekistan wasted a string of chances against a weary-looking Japan side yet to taste defeat in 13 games since Italian Alberto Zaccheroni took charge in October.
Captain Server Djeparov volleyed Uzbekistan into the lead after eight minutes, celebrating with a triple back-flip as the home fans lit flares and roared with delight.
Shinji Okazaki's diving header gave Japan a barely-deserved equaliser in the 65th minute, triggering something of a shootout as both teams suddenly threw caution to the wind.
"Uzbekistan pushed us around a bit," Zaccheroni told reporters. "Give them credit, they are a very good side. We were better in the second half but we must play better than that."
Japan still top Group C on four points, ahead of Uzbekistan on goal difference.
North Korea, unlucky 1-0 losers in Japan on Friday, scraped past Tajikistan 1-0 in Pyongyang to go third in the group.
Elsewhere, 2007 Asian champions Iraq bounced back from their shock home defeat by Jordan last week to defeat hosts Singapore 2-0 and give coach Zico his first win.
The former Brazilian midfielder's side took the lead on 49 minutes with a header from Alaa Abdul Zahra and the players responded by kissing the artificial turf.
Iraq continued to pump high balls into the box and their tactics paid off in the 86th minute when captain Younis Mahmood scored.
Singapore failed to get a shot on goal in the first hour and had coach Raddy Avramovich serving a one-match touchline ban for being sent off last week.
Singapore are bottom of Group A where Jordan lead the way on six points after beating China 2-1 for their second successive victory.
If a barren first-half disappointed the fans at the Amman International Stadium, Jordan made amends early in the second period by scoring through Baha Suleiman and Amer Deeb.
Hao Junmin's 56th-minute effort promised a Chinese fightback but it failed to materialise.
South Korea played out a 1-1 draw in Kuwait to top Group B on goal difference even though both teams have four points.
Iran held on to first place in Group E despite drawing 1-1 against Qatar in Doha.
In a Group D match in Bangkok, Thailand cruised to a 3-0 victory over lacklustre Oman thanks to Sompong Soleb, Teerasil Dangda and an own goal from Rashid Al Farsi.
In Beirut, Lebanon revived their Group B campaign with a 3-1 victory over United Arab Emirates after being hammered 6-0 by South Korea in their previous match.
Mahmoud Al Hammadi gave the UAE a 15th minute lead. Mohamed Ghadar converted a penalty for Lebanon in the 37th before Akram Moghrabi and skipper Roda Antar struck in the second half.
In a Group E match in Jakarta, Bahrain scored in each half through Sayed Dhiya Saeed Shubbar and Ismaeel Latif to beat Indonesia 2-0.comments