SHENZHEN: China were frustrated 0-0 by Hong Kong in a politically fraught World Cup qualifier on Thursday as Son Heung-Min celebrated his move to Tottenham Hotspur with a hat-trick in South Korea s 8-0 thrashing of Laos.
Japan finally got a win under coach Vahid Halilhodzic and Australia shrugged off internal problems to smash five past Bangladesh as Asia s big fish feasted on the region s minnows.
However, Hong Kong kept Alain Perrin s China in check and stayed on top of Group C with a gritty draw played under tight security on the 70th anniversary of Japan s World War II defeat.
Visiting fans were heard chanting “We are Hong Kong!” in English, a nod to the semi-autonomous Chinese territory s British colonial past and rising anti-Beijing sentiment.
And goalkeeper Yapp Hung-fai was similarly defiant, pulling off a string of saves as Hong Kong ensured a markedly different result to their 7-0 qualifying defeat in China in 2004.
“China had a few chances at the beginning. China did well from the beginning. But God blessed us,” said Hong Kong coach Kim Pan-gon.
Asian champions Australia had an easier time in Perth as they cast off internal upheaval over a pay dispute to put five past Bangladesh, who are 173rd in the world rankings.
Players boycotted pre-match promotional appearances but they showed no signs of mutiny on the pitch with Celtic s Tom Rogic scoring twice as Australia went 4-0 up before half-time.
Japan have so far endured a 2015 to forget, crashing out in the Asian Cup quarter-finals as defending champions and finishing last at last month s four-team East Asian Cup.
But after four games without a win, they finally got off the mark under Halilhodzic, with big guns Keisuke Honda, Maya Yoshida and Shinji Kagawa all on target in a 3-0 home win against 180th-ranked Cambodia.
As a busy night of qualifiers continued, new Spurs signing Son put in the performance so far when he bagged a hat-trick among South Korea s eight unanswered goals against tiny Laos.
The English Premier League new boy struck two of South Korea s three goals before the break and he completed his treble on 74 minutes as the hosts ran riot in the second half.
Later on Thursday, unheralded Guam, East Timor and Bhutan will try their luck in away fixtures against Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar respectively.
The second round of Asian qualifying, which finishes in March, features 39 teams and also doubles as a route to the 2019 Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates.