Marcello Lippi fails to inspire China while Australia draw 2-2 in Thailand
Marcello Lippi was unable to inspire China to a win in his first game in charge as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Qatar in a AFC World Cup qualifier in Kunming on Tuesday evening.
The hosts are bottom of Group A in the final round of qualification for the 2018 World Cup with just one point from the first four games, and the result almost certainly ends the slim hopes they had of finishing in the top two in the six-team group and progressing automatically to Russia.
China had plenty of chances but could nt find a way through. Qatar goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb was in fine form to deny the likes of Wu Xi and Wu Lei.
It was also not an ideal result for Qatar, with the 2022 World Cup hosts five points behind Uzbekistan in third place and six behind the automatic qualification spots as South Korea defeated the Uzbeks 2-1 at Seoul World Cup Stadium.
Uzbekistan, who started the game in second and two points ahead of South Korea, took a first-half lead thanks to Mirat Bikmajev. He collected the ball in midfield from a scuffed clearance by goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu and then lobbed Kim and the retreating defenders with perfect precision.
It was looking grim for Uli Stielike's men until Nam Tae-hee headed home from close range midway through the second half. With five minutes remaining, Koo Ja-cheol put Korea's hopes for a ninth successive World Cup appearance back on track, shooting home from inside the area after a Kim Shin-wook knockdown.
Iran are a point clear of South Korea at the top of the Group A table after a goalless draw against Syria in Paroi, Malaysia, with the game delayed because of torrential rain.
In Group B, Australia were held to a 2-2 draw by Thailand, who finally got their first point of the group stage.
Captain Mile Jedinak put Australia ahead from the penalty spot on nine minutes in Bangkok.
However, Thailand -- who had lost all of their four Group B ties and are the lowest-ranked team left in Asian qualification -- hit back when Teerasil Dangda equalised with a close-range finish on 20 minutes before the Muangthong United forward gave the hosts a shock lead from a 57th-minute penalty.
Jedinak drew Australia level by converting a somewhat controversial second penalty, ruled to have been pulled back by Siroch Chatthong, on 65 minutes, but Ange Postecoglou's side could not conjure a winner.
After failing to win their past three qualifiers, the Socceroos slipped to third place in the table, a point behind both Japan and leaders Saudi Arabia, who were defeated 2-1 by the Samurai Blue in Saitama earlier on Tuesday.
Hiroshi Kiyotake scored an early penalty thanks to a Saudi handball and then Genki Haraguchi looked to have sealed the win for Japan with eleven minutes remaining.
Omar Hawsawi pulled a goal back 10 minutes later for Bert Van Marwijk's men to ensure a tense finish but Japan hung on for a crucial win.
United Arab Emirates moved level with Australia on nine points following their 2-0 win over Iraq in Abu Dhabi.
Ahmed Khalil put the hosts ahead on 26 minutes and Ismail Matar wrapped things up in stoppage time.
John Duerden covers Asian football for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnnyDuerden.