By Michael Church
HONGKONG (Reuters) – There were no fans and no goals as North Korea and South Korea drew 0-0 in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday while Marcello Lippi’s China dropped their first points as they were held to a surprise goalless draw in the Philippines.
North and South Korea, still technically at war because their 1950-53 civil conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, played out a 0-0 draw in front of an empty Kim Il Sung Stadium.
Only the visiting FIFA President Gianni Infantino and a small group of officials and dignitaries were present to witness the game, which was their first ever meeting in World Cup qualifying in Pyongyang.
It was the third time in the countries’ last five meetings in World Cup qualifying that neither side has been able to find the back of the net, and it means both nations remain unbeaten in the second round of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.
South Korea lead the North Koreans on goal difference at the top of Group H with both countries on seven points, one point more than Lebanon who defeated Sri Lanka 3-0.
China’s 0-0 draw with the Philippines meant the 2002 World Cup qualifiers dropped down to second in Group A on seven points, two behind Syria, who beat Guam 4-0 to maintain their perfect start, with Omar Al Somah scoring a hat-trick.
Australia thrashed Taiwan 7-1 in Kaoshiung to maintain their 100 percent record in Group B and next month will face Jordan, who secured a 3-0 win over Nepal to remain in second place.
Iraq secured a second straight win in Group C with a 4-0 thrashing of Cambodia and are joint top of the standings with Bahrain, who claimed a surprise 1-0 win over Iran thanks to Mohammed Al Hardan’s second-half penalty.
Eldor Shomurodov scored twice in Uzbekistan’s 3-1 victory over Singapore, which moved the White Wolves into pole position in Group D, one point ahead of second-placed Saudi Arabia after the five-times World Cup qualifiers were held to a 0-0 draw in Palestine.
Japan were made to work for their 3-0 win over Tajikistan on an artificial pitch in Dushanbe, with Takumi Minamino scoring twice early in the second half to steer Hajime Moriyasu’s side to their third straight victory.
The Japanese now lead Group F by three points from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, who beat Mongolia 2-1 in Ulaanbaatar earlier in the day.
Indonesia’s woes continued with a 3-1 loss in Jakarta – their fourth defeat in a row – against Vietnam while Bert van Marwijk was handed his first competitive loss as head coach of the United Arab Emirates, with goals from Teerasil Dangda and Ekanit Panya earning Thailand a 2-1 win in Pathum Thani.
Thailand are now joint top of Group G alongside the Vietnamese, with both teams on seven points, one more than the UAE.
India salvaged a 1-1 draw with Bangladesh thanks to Adil Khan’s header two minutes from fulltime in the countries’ Group E meeting in Kolkata while Qatar opened up a four-point gap at the top following their 2-1 win over Oman.
(Editing by Toby Davis)