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Japan beats Australia 2-1 in World Cup qualifying

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Ao Tanaka of Japan
Ao Tanaka of Japan

New Delhi: An Australian own-goal kept Japan in the race for an automatic spot in next year’s World Cup.

Australia defender Aziz Behich put the ball into his own net in the 85th minute Tuesday to give Japan a 2-1 victory and six points from four matches in Group B, three points behind the first-place Aussies.

Australia goalkeeper Mat Ryan tipped a shot from Takuma Asano and the ball bounced off the post and then ricocheted off Behich and into the net.

Only the top two teams from each of the two six-team groups will automatically qualify for the World Cup in Qatar.

Ao Tanaka gave Japan an early lead at Saitama Stadium, but Ajdin Hrustic equalized for Australia in the 70th minute.

“Both teams had a go at each other,” Australia coach Graham Arnold said.

“We were unlucky that we hit the post but … at the end of the day, it wasn’t meant to be but we are on nine points after four games.”

Australia, which had won 11 straight games, was awarded a penalty kick midway through the second half when Hidemasa Morita brought down Hrustic on the edge of the area. But before Martin Boyle could take the kick, referee Abdulrahman Al-Jassim of Qatar reversed the call after a video review, ruling that the challenge had taken place just outside the box.

Japan is seeking a seventh straight World Cup appearance. Australia has appeared at every World Cup since 2006.

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