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Sharpshooters star on Matchday Three

Kuala Lumpur: On a night which produced 74 goals across 16 matches, Asia’s top marksmen found their range on Matchday Three of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023.

Seven players netted hat-tricks on Thursday, as the Continent’s heavyweights, and some rising powers, flexed their muscles in a series of emphatic home wins.

Here, looks at some of the most effective front men on Matchday Three.

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Yang Xu – China PR v Guam

Guam arrived in Guangzhou hopeful of pulling off an upset of historic proportions, but Yang dashed any such possibility with four goals in the opening 31 minutes as Marcello Lippi’s side stormed to a 7-0 win.

The Tianjin Tianhai man was on the scoresheet within six minutes, slamming the ball high past goalkeeper Sean Evans, before adding further goals in the 19th, 24th and 31st minutes as China PR piled on half a dozen before half-time.

Now the equal top scorer in the Asian Qualifiers with five goals, it’s not the first time Yang’s goals have come in bunches.

The haul against Guam was his fourth international hat-trick, and equalled his four goals against Bhutan in November 2015 as his best return for the national team.

Jamie Maclaren – Australia v Nepal

International hat-tricks may be old news for Yang, but Australian striker Jamie Maclaren revelled in a treble which saw him multiply his Socceroos goal tally by four in the space of 90 minutes.

With one goal from his previous 13 appearances in the green and gold, Melbourne City’s Maclaren showed all of his natural number-nine instincts in the 5-0 win against Nepal, netting close range shots in the sixth and 19th minutes before completing a boyhood dream with his third in the dying moments.

Maclaren became the first player since Mile Jedinak to net a hat-trick for the Socceroos, but he was very nearly joined by debutant Harry Souttar, who scored twice and narrowly missed out on a third as Graham Arnold’s side took the three points with ease.

Sardar Azmoun – IR Iran v Cambodia

With goals against the likes of Benfica and Olympique Lyonnais in the weeks prior to the match, it was always going to be a serious challenge for Cambodia to keep Sardar Azmoun quiet, and so it proved as the Zenit Saint Petersburg star posted a hat-trick before half-time in Islamic Republic of Iran’s 14-0 win.

Azmoun stroked home his first to make it 2-0 in the 11th minute, then took further advantage of Cambodia’s porous defence and goalkeeper Keo Soksela’s night to forget, tapping home two more from close range to bring up his 32nd international goal in less than 50 caps.

Still only 24, Azmoun is now fifth on Iran’s all-time scorers’ chart, with Javad Nekounam (39 goals) and Ali Karimi (38) both conceivably within striking distance during this Asian Qualifiers campaign.

Karim Ansarifard – IR Iran v Cambodia

It isn’t often that a hat-trick scorer misses out on player of the match honours, but that was the fate which befell Azmoun as teammate Karim Ansarifard went one better with a four-goal haul against the Cambodians.

It took until the 40th minute for the Al Sailiya forward to open his account from an indirect free-kick inside the penalty area and he never looked back from there, scoring three more goals after the interval to top the scoring in Iran’s biggest win in 19 years.

Appearing for Team Melli for the 80th time, Ansarifard’s hat-trick was his first at international level and came a full decade after he made his senior debut.

Edgar Bernhardt – Kyrgyz Republic v Myanmar

Edgar Bernhardt also ended a long wait to tick scoring a hat-trick off his footballing bucket list, scoring three goals for the first time at any level since his professional career began back in 2004.

Making Bernhardt’s role in Kyrgyz Republic’s record 7-0 win over Myanmar even more unique is his position as a holding midfielder, not that it stopped the 33-year-old from venturing forward to score twice in the opening 10 minutes, before adding a late penalty to complete one of the best nights of his Akshumkar career.

Bernhardt is only the second Kyrgyz Republic player to bag an international hat-trick. Vitalij Lux ended a 27-year drought earlier this year by becoming the first player from the country to score three in a match against Philippines at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.

Ali Mabkhout – United Arab Emirates v Indonesia

None of Thursday’s seven hat-tricks were more significant than the one scored by UAE star Ali Mabkhout, who became the country’s all-time top scorer with a second-half treble in his side’s 5-0 win over Indonesia.

Fresh from his crucial brace in Malaysia a month ago, Mabkhout showed the composure which has made one Asia’s most feared and consistent strikers to overtake Adnan Al Talyani as the UAE’s most prolific scorer with 54 official goals.

Mabkhout, who admitted after the match that he wasn’t sure exactly how many goals he had scored for his country, is now level with Yang and Ansarifard with five goals in the Asian Qualifiers, and, still only 29 years old, could have many more to come in his superb career.

Kim Shin-wook – Korea Republic v Sri Lanka

MD3 - Group H: Korea Republic vs Sri Lanka

Korea Republic’s towering striker had a night to remember against Sri Lanka, cashing in as Paulo Bento’s side outclassed their South Asian visitors in an 8-0 win in Hwaseong.

The 196-centimetre Shanghai Shenhua forward scored twice in either half, finding the net in an Asian Qualifiers match for the first time since 2012, and scoring his first ever international goals on home soil.

Kim, a two-time AFC Champions League winner, is the first player to score four in a match for the Korean national team since Park Jin-sub, whose entire career tally of five goals came in a single outing against Nepal in 2003.

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