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Japan stays perfect on road to World Cup while Iran falters



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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Japan maintained its perfect record in Asia World Cup qualifying by beating Kyrgyzstan 2-0 while Iran lost a second straight match on Thursday.

Iran, trying to reach a third consecutive World Cup, fell to Iraq 2-1 in Amman, Jordan.

Takumi Minamino gave Japan the lead in Bishkek from the penalty spot four minutes before halftime and Genki Haraguchi added a second after 54 minutes.

Japan, with four wins out of four, moved six points clear of second-placed Kyrgyzstan at the top of Group F.

Iran slipped four points behind Iraq halfway through the group stage after substitute Alaa Abbas scored the winner in the second minute of injury time.

Iraq moved to the top of Group C, two points of clear of Bahrain, which drew against Hong Kong 0-0.

South Korea stayed first in Group H though it dropped points after drawing with Lebanon 0-0 in Beirut.

Due to anti-government protests in the city, Lebanese authorities played the qualifier behind closed doors.

Elsewhere, Vietnam took sole lead of Group G by three points after beating the United Arab Emirates 1-0 in Hanoi, while previous co-leader Thailand lost to Malaysia 2-1 in Kuala Lumpur.

Saudi Arabia came from behind to defeat Uzbekistan 3-2 to go top of Group D.

China, coached by 2006 World Cup winner Marcello Lippi, slipped five points behind Syria in Group A after losing to the Syrians 2-1 in Dubai.

Osama Omari opened the scoring for Syria after 19 minutes, and Wu Lei equalized on the half hour. A Zhang Linpeng own goal with 14 minutes remaining condemned China to its first defeat.

Only the winner of each of the eight groups and the four best second-placed teams progress to the next stage of qualification.

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The Associated Press

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