SAITAMA (Japan) • Four-time Asian champions Japan were guilty of missing a string of chances before beating lowly Cambodia 3-0 in a football World Cup qualifier in Saitama yesterday.
The Samurai Blue were hoping to put on a show after being held to a shock goalless home draw by Singapore in their opening Group E fixture in June. But finishing chances against their 180th Fifa-ranked opposition proved a problem.
Keisuke Honda eventually opened the scoring in the 28th minute. He was allowed too much time before firing a left-foot shot from outside the area.
Cambodia goalkeeper Sou Yaty should have pushed the ball over the crossbar but seemed to misjudge the flight.
He redeemed himself with numerous saves, including an impressive one to deny Shinji Okazaki in the first half.
With little defending to do, centre-back Maya Yoshida stepped up to show the forwards how it is done. He rifled a low right-foot drive from 22 metres past Sou to make it 2-0 in the 50th minute.
Borussia Dortmund playmaker Shinji Kagawa then shot through a crowded penalty area 11 minutes later to seal a first competitive win for Vahid Halihodzic who was appointed Japan manager in March.
The three points took Japan on to four points from two matches ahead of Tuesday's qualifier in Teheran against Afghanistan.
Only the group winners of the five-team pool are guaranteed a spot in the next round of Asian qualifiers for Russia 2018. Singapore were scheduled to face Syria late yesterday in Muscat, Oman.
In Group G, new Tottenham Hotspur signing Son Heung Min demonstrated his finishing abilities with a hat-trick as South Korea walloped lowly Laos 8-0.
Son, who joined the English Premier League club for a reported €30 million (S$47 million) from Bayer Leverkusen last week, struck in the 17th minute to make it 2-0 after slotting in a cut-back cross.
A powerful strike from an acute angle by the 23-year-old made it 5-0 in the 74th minute.
He completed his first international hat-trick a minute from time with a tidy run and finish.
Australia also went on a goal spree, putting their recent problems behind them to thrash Bangladesh 5-0 in Perth. Socceroos manager Ange Postecoglou was forced into an embarrassing retraction on Wednesday after he let rip about a bitter wage row which had overshadowed preparations for the Group B qualifier.