World Cup 2018 AFC Qualification Review: Heavyweights stake their claim in Asian section
South Korea, Australia and Japan all chalked up commanding wins to move towards the third round of the AFC's World Cup qualifying section on Thursday.
Uli Stielike's South Korea now boast a five-point advantage at the top of Group G after dispatching Myanmar 4-0 at the Suwon World Cup Stadium.
Lee Jae-sung and Koo Ja-cheol netted first-half goals either side of Jang Hyun-soo missing a penalty, although the Guangzhou R&F man managed to get his name on the scoresheet before Nam Tae-hee completed the scoring.
The battle for second place – where the best four runners-up from the eight groups join the first-place teams in progressing in the qualifying section as well as a guaranteed Asian Cup spot – in Group G is set to be a battle between Kuwait and Lebanon after the latter's 7-0 win over Laos.
Japan brushed aside Singapore 3-0 to edge a point clear of Syria at the top of Group E.
Mu Kanazaki opened the scoring on his first international appearance for five years before Keisuke Honda doubled the advantage for Vahid Halilhodzic's side and Maya Yoshida netted a late third.
Singapore have 10 points, two fewer than Syria and four ahead of Afghanistan, who were 3-0 winners over pointless Cambodia.
Defeat to Jordan last time out hit Australia's qualification bid but they got back on track by beating Kyrgyzstan 3-0 in Canberra with the help of goals from experienced campaigners Mile Jedinak and Tim Cahill.
Ildar Amirov's own goal also contributed to the visitors' downfall and Ange Postcecoglou's men are a point behind leaders Jordan in Group B, where Tajikistan romped to a 5-0 win over Bangladesh in the day's other game.
There were contrasting wins for qualification hopefuls Hong Kong and China in Group C as leaders Qatar sat out this round of fixtures.
Paulinho's 14th minute penalty give Hong Kong a 1-0 win on their trip to face the Maldives, while China put Bhutan to the sword 12-0.
Yang Xu's first-half hat-trick ended as a four-goal haul, while there were braces for each of Yu Dabao, Yu Hanchao and substitute Wang Yongpo.
Uzbekistan came from behind to beat North Korea 3-1 in Tashkent and close the gap at the top of Group H to one point with a game in hand on their opponents.
Yemen prevented Philippines from taking a grip on third with a 1-0 win – Ahmed Al Sarori's goal seven minutes from time securing the visitors' first points of the round.
Ashkan Dejagah's penalty rounded off a 3-1 victory over Turkmenistan that moves Iran to the top of Group D, ahead of Oman on goal difference, while India got off the mark with a 1-0 win that dented Guam's hopes.
In Group A, United Arab Emirates and Palestine kept leaders Saudi Arabia within reach by thrashing East Timor and Malaysia respectively.