Al Kuwaitiah  

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

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Crowd troubles mar Asian World Cup qualifiers
War-torn neighbors Syria and Iraq continued their unbeaten starts to the Asian World Cup qualifying competition Tuesday as crowd trouble reared its ugly head in Malaysia, forcing the abandonment of the match with Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia were leading 2-1 in the Group A Asian qualifier at Shah Alam Stadium in Selangor when play was stopped in the 87th minute after fans launched flares and fireworks onto the pitch.
Players from both teams left the field and did not return. The match was later abandoned with the outcome to be decided by the sport’s world governing body FIFA.
Malaysia suffered a record 10-0 loss to United Arab Emirates last week, infuriating fans and prompting the resignation of head coach Dollah Salleh.
Malaysia’s Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin later blamed the unruly fans and the Football Association of Malaysia, saying they had failed to control the situation.
“FAM lost control of their own stadium. Fans throwing flares were wrong. Both at fault tonight,” Khairy said in a tweet.
The crowd problems overshadowed another remarkable win by Syria, who have never qualified for the World Cup but have defied the odds to lead a qualifying group that includes Japan.
Forced to play all their matches away because of the problems in their homeland, the Eagles made it three wins from three matches with a 6-0 thrashing of Cambodia at the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh.
Syria’s 21-year-old striker Omar Khrbin scored twice, his first brace for his embattled country, while Mahmoud Al Mawas, Sanharib Malki, Omar Midani and Osama Omari also got on the scoresheet.
The victory – their second by that scoreline in the qualifiers – consolidated Syria’s position at the top of the Asian Group E standings with nine points and 13 goals without reply.
Iraq surrendered a 2-0 lead, conceding two late goals to draw 2-2 with Thailand in Bangkok, but also remain unbeaten.
Iraq’s American-born winger Justin Meram opened the scoring in the 34th minute. Then Iraq’s captain, Younis Mahmoud, doubled the lead in the second half with his 55th international goal.
But Thailand, who won their first two matches, scored twice in the last 10 minutes through Theerathon Bunmathan and Mongkol Tossakrai, to remain at the head of Group F standings, although Iraq, three points behind, have a game in hand.
Asia’s heavyweight teams all won easily. Australia’s stand-in captain Tim Cahill scored two late goals to seal a 3-0 win for the Socceroos against Tajikistan in Dushanbe.
The reigning Asian champions maintained their perfect start to the qualifying campaign to remain at the top of the Group B standings with their third win in as many matches.
Japan showed no mercy against Afghanistan, smashing in six unanswered goals in their Group E fixture, which was played in Tehran.
Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki scored twice each as four-time Asian champions picked up their second successive win after being held to a shock goalless home draw by Singapore in their opening game in June.
Iran beat India 3-0 in Bangalore while South Korea defeated Lebanon by the same score in Beirut and, like Syria, have scored 13 goals without giving up any in three matches.
Jordan scored twice in each half in a 4-0 win over Bangladesh in Dhaka to remain undefeated in Group B, with Abdallah Deeb scoring a brace, including a penalty.
Kuwait defeated Laos 2-0 in Vientiane to preserve their 100 percent record, while 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar continued the strong showing by Gulf teams, holding on for a 3-2 victory over previously unbeaten Hong Kong.
Qatar almost threw it away after leading 3-0 with three minutes of normal time left but head the Group C standings with nine points from three matches, followed by China and Hong Kong, both on seven.
China got their campaign back on track after last week’s scoreless draw with Hong Kong, with a 3-0 win over the Maldives, with the help of two goals from striker Yu Dabao.
Vietnam registered their first win with a 2-1 victory over Taiwan, with Tran Phi Son scoring the winner in stoppage time on his international debut. The tiny Pacific nation of Guam held Oman to a goalless draw, rekindling their fairytale start to the qualifying competition.
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