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South Korea stays perfect as Son scores twice to beat China

Son Heung-Min scored twice and set up the third as South Korea handed China a 3-0 defeat in Shenzhen on Tuesday to complete back-to-back wins at the start of their challenge for a place at the 2026 World Cup finals.

Japan, Australia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia all won, while Kuwait and North Korea scored a flurry of goals en route to victories.

Australia and Palestine players stood for a minute's silence ahead of their game, which was played in Kuwait due to the Israel-Hamas war.

Son put the Koreans in front in the Group C clash in the second phase of Asia's preliminaries with an 11th minute penalty after Hwang Hee-chan had been fouled in the area, steering his spot kick low to the right of Chinese goalkeeper Yan Junling.

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He added the second in the final minute of the first half with a header that looped over Yan from the edge of the six-yard box following Lee Kang-in's corner.

The Tottenham Hotspur forward turned provider three minutes from time when he drifted in a free kick from the right that Jung Seung-hyun headed past Yan to put the seal on the victory.

The win keeps South Korea perfect after the first two games in the second round of Asia's preliminaries for the 2026 World Cup and was China's first defeat after winning against Thailand on Thursday.

The Thais bounced back from that loss to beat Singapore 3-1 loss with Suphanat Mueanta scoring twice in the second half for Mano Polking's team, who move level with China on three points.

Japan also recorded a second successive win with Ayase Ueda scoring twice in a 5-0 thrashing of Syria in Jeddah that gives Hajime Moriyasu's side a three-point lead over North Korea and the Syrians in Group B.

Harry Souttar scored the only goal in Australia's 1-0 win over Palestine in Group I, which was played in Kuwait's Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium due to the ongoing Israel-Gaza war.

Souttar scored the game's only goal with an 18th-minute header.

Australia are top of the group with six points, four ahead of Lebanon, who drew 1-1 with Bangladesh.

Second-half goals from Oston Orunov and Igor Sergeev saw Uzbekistan fight back from a two-goal half-time deficit to draw 2-2 with Iran in Group E, leaving both teams on four points, three ahead of Hong Kong and Turkmenistan following their 2-2 draw.

Mohanad Ali scored six minutes into injury time to earn Iraq a 1-0 win over hosts Vietnam in Group F as Jesus Casas' side moved onto six points.

Qatar won their second game in a row with a 3-0 defeat of India in Group A and Yemen picked up their first victory in Group H with a 2-0 win over Nepal.

Vietnam remain in second in the group standings after the Philippines and Indonesia shared a 1-1 draw in Manila.

Jong Il Gwan scored a hat trick as North Korea picked up their first win of the campaign with a 6-1 thrashing of Myanmar in Yangon having started their quest for a place at the finals last Thursday with a draw against Syria in Group B.

Tajikistan also won 6-1 with Amadoni Kamolov hitting a brace in their victory over Pakistan in Group G in Islamabad, while Saudi Arabia's Saleh Al Shehri scored twice in a 2-0 win over Jordan, who sit third in the group with just one point after two matches.

Hong Kong twice came back from behind to draw 2-2 with Turkmenistan with Everton Camargo scoring midway through the second half to secure a point after Ruslan Mingazow had scored both goals for the visitors in Group E.

Also maintaining a perfect record in Group H were United Arab Emirates with a 2-0 victory over Bahrain after a powerful first-half strike from Abdalla Bekheet and a penalty a minute from fulltime which Ali Mabkhout converted.

Kuwait, meanwhile, trounced Afghanistan 4-0 away to move into second place in Group A behind Qatar.

The qualifying games will resume in March next year.