SINGAPORE: Ten-man Australia held free-flowing Japan to a 1-1 draw in World Cup qualifying yesterday, as South Korea marched towards Brazil 2014 with a 3-0 hammering of Lebanon.
In a Brisbane replay of last year's Asian Cup final, won by Japan, the Blue Samurai went ahead when dangerman Keisuke Honda carved open the defence for Yuzo Kurihara's simple finish on 65 minutes.
But Australia, who had lost substitute Mark Milligan to a second yellow card early in the second half, levelled with a coolly taken Luke Wilkshire penalty, after Alex Brosque was impeded inside the box.
It provided a dramatic finish to an enthralling game between Asia's two top-ranked sides -- and Sasa Ognenovski nearly snatched it for the hosts when he rattled the bar in the closing stages.
Japan, spearheaded by Honda and Manchester United recruit-to-be Shinji Kagawa, had totted up nine goals in their opening wins against Oman and Jordan in an impressive start to their bid for a fifth straight World Cup finals.
And luck looked on the side of Asian champions when Mark Bresciano went off with an early hip injury and his replacement, Milligan, was given his marching orders for fouls on Honda and then Atsuto Uchida.
They went ahead through a typically incisive goal created by Honda, who cut back from the right byline to the unmarked Kurihara, who made no mistake from close range.
But just five minutes later, Uchida was carded for pulling Brosque as an Australian corner came in, and Dynamo Moscow's Wilkshire made no mistake in front of 40,000 fans at Brisbane Stadium.
Japan also finished a man down as goal-scorer Kurihara received a second yellow for bringing down Tim Cahill. And the visitors were aggrieved when the referee blew full-time as they lined up a long-range free-kick.
Japan remain top of Group B with seven points from three games -- including a 6-0 spree against Jordan -- while Australia have two points from two matches after their drab 0-0 away draw against Oman on Friday.
In Goyang, west of Seoul, winger Kim Bo-Kyung broke his international duck with a classy brace as South Korea thrashed Lebanon to move towards their eighth consecutive World Cup finals.
The Cerezo Osaka left-footer grabbed his first two goals in 14 senior internationals, and Koo Ja-Cheol added a late third as the 2002 World Cup semi-finalists made it two wins in a row to start the last qualifying phase. AFP