Guam stun India; S’pore hold Japan

SINGAPORE: Guam stunned India to move to the top of their 2018 World Cup qualifying group on Tuesday, while Japan saw their campaign get off to a rocky start as they were held to a goalless draw by Singapore.

South Korea, China and the UAE, meanwhile, had no such problems with all winning their opening matches. The tiny Pacific island of Guam produced Tuesday’s most remarkable result, with the Matao winning 2-1 against opponents who are currently 33 spots ahead of them in the FIFA world rankings.

Looking to build on their 1-0 win over Turkmenistan on Thursday, Guam took the lead at the GFA National Training Center after 38 minutes when Brandon McDonald headed in Ryan Guy’s long throw-in. Travis Nicklaw doubled the tally in the 62nd when he received a long pass from his elder brother Shawn and fired home on the turn. Sunil Chhetri got a consolation goal for India with the last kick of the game but it did little to take the shine off the result for Guam, who moved to the top of Group D with six points.

Japan, meanwhile, dominated their opening match in Group E in the second round of Asian qualifying against Singapore but they failed to make their possession count against the Lions at a packed Saitama Stadium 2002. The Blue Samurai are aiming to qualify for a sixth consecutive World Cup, but Singapore goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud made a string of excellent saves to deny the home side, including a pair of superb stops to keep out second-half headers by Shinji Okazaki and Keisuke Honda. Honda went closest to breaking the deadlock with a 73rd minute free-kick that came back off the crossbar.

The stalemate meant that Singapore moved to the top of Group E with four points following their 4-0 win against Cambodia on Thursday. Afghanistan are level with second-placed Syria on three points. South Korea, who are eyeing a ninth consecutive World Cup appearance, started well in Group G as goals in either half by Lee Jae-Sung and Bayer Leverkusen’s Son Heung-Min gave them a 2-0 win over Myanmar.

China also made an excellent start in Group C with striker Yang Xu netting a hat-trick in a 6-0 thrashing of Bhutan at Thimphu, but Asian Cup semi-finalists UAE had to work hard for a 1-0 win over Timor Leste in Group A as Omar Abdulrahman netted the only goal 10 minutes from time. Hong Kong lead the way in Group C after a 2-0 win over Maldives, Thailand sit atop Group F after winning 2-0 at Chinese Taipei and North Korea are frontrunners in Group H following a 4-2 victory over Uzbekistan in Pyongyang.