Clumsy Korea cling on for draw with Uzbekistan

A stuttering South Korea remained on course to reach an eighth consecutive World Cup after they escaped Uzbekistan with a 2-2 draw after a poor display in their Group A qualifying clash in Tashkent.

The Koreans now lie top with seven points from three matches in the five-team World Cup qualifying pool but struggled badly in central Asia.

Twice Asian Player of the Year Server Djeparov caused the Koreans numerous problems with his set pieces as the visitors never really got going on a uneven pitch.

The Uzbeks dominated the opening stages and came close to taking the lead in the 12th minute when striker Ulugbek Bakaev's hooked shot was cleared off the line by a scrambling Korean defence.

But from the resulting corner by playmaker Djeparov, Korean midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng headed into his own net after a near post flick on by Sanjar Tursunov.

The busy striker should have doubled the advantage 10 minutes later when he sidestepped two tumbling Korean defenders to fire a rasping left foot drive from 12 metres out but the visitors goalkeeper, Jung Sung-ryong, palmed behind.

The Koreans were struggling to get their passing going as the Uzbeks looked most likely to add to their lead only for some slack defending at the end of the half to cost them.

Ki made a amends for his earlier mistake to float a deep free kick into the Uzbek box which captain Kwak Tae-hwi met ahead of the onrushing home goalkeeper. Uzbek defender Artyom Filiposyan then smashed the ball into his own net as he attempted to clear.

The second half started out with neither side able to stamp their authority on the game before a bizarre move saw Korea take the lead in the 56th minute.

Experienced striker Lee Dong-gook was put through down the right but instead of shooting from inside the penalty area he tried to side foot a first time pass across goal only to woefully over hit the ball towards the touchline.

Fullback Park Joo-ho kept the ball in, however, and his cross was expertly controlled by Lee with his left foot before the striker fired the ball into the corner of the net with his right.

The lead lasted barely two minutes before another Djeparov corner proved the Koreans' undoing, Tursunov sneaking in behind Park to head unchallenged into the far corner from the near post.

Both sides had chances to win the game at the death but Lee had his shot saved after running on to a ball over the top, with Tursunov then firing a shot agonisingly wide of the far post with team mates rushing in.

The point was the home side's second from three matches but they remained behind Qatar (four points) and Iran (four points) in the pool. Bottom-placed Lebanon were hosting Iran on Tuesday looking to add to their one point in the group.