Asian Cup: Japan beat Iraq, Jordan trounce Palestine
Midfielder Keisuke Honda converted a penalty and hit the woodwork three times as defending champions Japan edged Iraq 1-0 in the Asian Cup on Friday night in Brisbane to go top of the table in Group D.
With their second consecutive victory following their win against Palestine on Jan. 12, the Blue Samurai moved a step closer to qualifying for the quarterfinals. Javier Aguirre's men are up against Jordan in their final group game on Jan. 20 and need only a point to book their spot in the last eight.
AC Milan star Honda converted from the spot in the 23rd minute after he was dragged down in the area amid challenges by Ali Adnan Kadhim and Saad Abdulameer. Honda was trying to latch on to a blocked close-range effort from Shinji Kagawa when he went to ground.
The Milan star hit the post with a header in the 17th, smashed a right-footed strike into the crossbar in the 47th and hit the post again from close range in the 65th.
In Friday's earlier Group D game, Jordan midfielder Hamza Al Dardour scored four goals and set up another as Ray Wilkins' men kept their Asian Cup hopes alive with a 5-1 win over Palestine in Melbourne's Rectangular Stadium.
Jordan now have three points from two matches after having lost against Iraq in their opener on Jan. 12. They now take on defending champions Japan on Jan. 20 hoping to book their second successive quarterfinal appearance in the tournament.
Palestine looked the more organized early in the match, but it was Jordan that made the breakthrough in the 33rd minute when midfielder Yousef Ahmad gathered Hamza's pass in the area and sent a long, curving strike into the top corner of the net.
Hamza scored himself just over a minute later when he met midfielder Abdallah Deeb's cross in front of goal and slid it inside the far post.
The forward scored his second goal in the stoppage time of the first half when he raced into the box and met a Saeed Murjan cross, volleying past Palestine goalkeeper Ramzi Saleh.
Hamza completed his hat-trick in the 75th minute when he burst onto a Deeb pass and sent a low shot into the net, then brought up his fourth five minutes later by beating Saleh with a low strike from just outside the box.
Palestine got their first ever Asian Cup goal when midfielder Jaka Hbaisha scored against the run of play in the 85th minute to the roars of almost 10,000 fans.
But they are eliminated after two back-to-back defeats while Jordan will hope to clinch their second successive Asian Cup quarterfinal berth in their last group game against Japan.